I popped along to the Oval farmer's market yesterday, picking up, among other foodstuffs, a wood pigeon for £2.50. Wood pigeons are available all year round. Which is a result. I already had the mushrooms and spinach, and some pine nuts and raisins were in the cupboard, so this concoction came to mind. The resulting plate of food turned out to be a deep, rich and intense plate of deliciousness.
It's an easy enough job to remove the breasts from the carcass of a pigeon -all you need is a small sharp knife and a thumb.
If you can't be arsed making a stock with the carcass (and if you're only making this for one I can entirely understand), simply use all chicken stock.
1 wood pigeon, breasts removed and skinned
a dab of tomato purée or tomato ketchup
a splash of olive oil
½ banana shallot (or ½ small onion)
25g thickly cut pancetta, diced
1 heaped tbsp dried porcini, soaked in hot water for 15 mins, squeezed dry and chopped
a handful of button mushrooms
60ml red wine
a little squeeze of honey to taste (I had acacia)
stock to barely cover
a pinch of thyme leaves
a splash of olive oil
200g baby spinach
1 dsp raisins, soaked in hot water, squeezed dry
1 dsp toasted pine nuts
a squeeze of lemon
a knob of butter
salt + black pepper
If you're going to make a stock, break up the carcass into small pieces and smear with a dab of tomato purée. Roast at 220C/200 fan for ten minutes. Transfer to a small pan, barely cover with chicken stock, bring to a boil and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Strain into a jug.
Heat a little olive oil in a pan and sauté the shallot until slightly softened. Add the pancetta and continue cooking until it's just starting to colour. Throw in the button mushrooms with the porcini and sauté for a minute or two. Add the red wine and let it bubble away to nothing. Pour in some stock to barely cover, sprinkle over some thyme and simmer for 5 minutes. Season and take off the heat.
Heat a little olive oil in another pan and throw in the spinach. Stir until wilted. Squeeze out as much water as possible. Add the pine nuts, raisins and a squeeze of lemon, stir, season and take off the heat.
When your ready to eat, heat a small frying pan and season the pigeon breasts. When the frying pan is hot throw in a knob of butter and slide in the breasts. Sauté for 2-3 minutes a side, basting all the time, then remove from the pan and leave to rest for 5 minutes. While the pigeon is resting, gently reheat the stew and spinach.
I came across the video above a few days ago. Now this is how I'd really like to be able to make sourdough bread at home. It features Sam Clark, in the Moro kitchen, making it look ridiculously easy - leave a 'sponge' overnight, mix in more flour in the morning, grab a handful of dough, plonk it in a proving basket (no kneading or stretching!!), leave to rise for 40 minutes (40 minutes!!) and throw it in the oven. Bish, bash and, indubitably, bosh. The video is entitled 'How To Bake Sourdough Bread'. As opposed, say, to 'How To Bake Sourdough Bread If You Have A Restaurant Kitchen, A Mahoosive Industrial Mixer And A Fuck-Off Wood-Burning Oven'.
Meanwhile, in a small flat somewhere in Peckham...
Above: the first (successful) loaf
...at the beginning of March I posted the above photo on my Facebook page, commenting "I've finally made a sourdough loaf I'm happy with. Ridiculously pleased!". I wasn't, however, intending to blog about it, not least for fear of getting a prompt response along the lines of "You're a bit farkin' previous there aren't you my son? Yours Sincerely D. Lepard, S. Clarke, D. Stevens, L. Hart, J. Gellatly, M. Monade & others."
But then, after two further attempts, I thought, well, maybe if I write about it someone else out there might find it useful, might be encouraged to have a shot. I'll wager there's quite a few people who fit the same profile as me, that is: we're half-way decent home cooks with little or no baking expertise save for the odd cake, more than content to buy our bread from the experts (in my case living within easy access to the produce of quite a few excellent bakeries - some of my favourites being The Flour Station, Franco Manca and Blackbird). But once or twice a year, inspired by a newspaper article or, perhaps, a gift of a ladleful of starter from a friend, we'll waste almost an entire weekend in the labour intensive production of what is essentially a flour-based manhole cover.
But one of the things I've learned is that it's really is worth persevering, adapting, experimenting. Because, I now think, there are actually an almost infinite number of permutations of recipe/flour/oven/environment - and you've got to find the one that works for you in your own kitchen using your oven. It would just be nice if the cookery writers mentioned that fact when banging out a recipe for the Sunday food and drink sections.
So I'll give you the recipe that I used for these three loaves but I'm not suggesting for a moment that you follow it. By all means do if you want, but first I'd suggest getting hold of a book that explains in detail the process of bread-making. I borrowed the River Cottage Handbook No. 3: Bread by Daniel Stevens from my local library. There are 50-odd pages of explanation before the first recipe.
The recipe below is a mash-up of his 'My Sourdough' recipe (which I can't seem to find online) and this one from Laura Hart (which also gives instructions on creating a starter). Dan Stevens' recipe mentions adding oil, but it isn't mentioned in the ingredients list. I added a tablespoon of olive oil. Neither mention the temperature of the water. Mary Contini (of Valvona & Crolla fame) suggests a water temperature of 30C in the summer and 40C in the winter for her pizza dough and I thought I'd stick with that formula here.
You'll see from the photos below how the second and third attempts varied from the first one. None of them, I have to say, had the large air pockets you like to see in, or had much of the distinctive sour tang of, a sourdough. The first issue was almost certainly because I've been adding more flour during the stretching/kneading process in an attempt to get the dough to hold its shape. With the second, maybe the starter needs time to mature. I guess you'd probably more accurately describe what I've produced so far as a 'campagne' style of bread. But they all tasted lovely. And, of course, cost peanuts.
I reckon I'm at the beginning of a long and meandering journey towards a really good sourdough. But I think I might just get there. Eventually.
...heartfelt thanks (and apologies for my non-responsiveness) to all those who enquired as to my well-being. As the old joke goes: "I used to think I was French but I'm alright maintenant."
Nonetheless it'll take a while to clear a path to the cooker through a month's worth of empty takeaway cartons, cereal boxes, encrusted crockery and other detritus.
In the meantime here's a few smokin' hot platters to accompany your cooking - starting with one of my favourites, which isn't on Spotify. Lawd have mercy - better than chicken fried in bacon grease! Enjoy.
cook with me mama by eddie hinton
get with the gravy, davy! : 28 food songs 1920's - 1950's
SHORTLISTED FOR FOOD BLOG OF THE YEAR 2014