Pigeon Pastilla

Submitted by: Ashley Peniston-Bird
This is a really extraordinary dish that takes a little bit of time and care but isn’t very difficult to make. It’s North African in origin – hence the combination of sugar, nuts and cinnamon with meat.you could use wild wood pigeons, increasingly availab

Serves: 6

Ingredients

6 pigeons (including, optionally, hearts and livers)
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 leeks, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
4 cinnamon sticks
a large glass of red wine
oil for frying
150g butter
6 eggs, beaten
a good bunch of parsley, finely chopped
a good bunch of coriander, finely chopped
40g icing sugar, plus extra to decorate
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, plus extra to decorate
50g flaked almonds, toasted
about 1/2 packet of filo pastry
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

If the birds are not oven-ready, pluck and draw them, reserving the hearts and livers if you wish to use them. Then cut off the breasts, running the blade of the knife as close as possible to the bone. Put the carcasses in a roasting tin and roast for 10 minutes in an oven preheated to 200°C/Gas Mark 6, then transfer them to a large saucepan with the onions, leeks, carrots and cinnamon sticks, packing everything in tightly. Add just enough water to cover, then bring to the boil. Skim off any scum from the surface and simmer gently, uncovered, for at least 2 hours. Strain the stock into a clean pan, ideally through muslin or cotton. Add the red wine and boil hard until the stock is reduced to an almost syrupy consistency. You should be left with a scant 100ml (about 4–5 tablespoons). Set aside.
Cut each pigeon breast into 4 or 5 pieces and throw them, with the liver and hearts if you are using them, into a lightly oiled hot pan to brown for a couple of minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Heat half the butter in a pan, add the eggs and scramble gently. Take off the heat while still pourable. Mix in the chopped parsley and coriander and some black pepper.
Thoroughly mix together the icing sugar, ground cinnamon and toasted flaked almonds. Melt the rest of the butter and brush some over the surface of a 23cm tart tin. Line the tin with 1 or 2 sheets of filo, letting it overhang the edges, and brush with more melted butter. Make 2 or 3 more layers of butter-brushed filo, then arrange the pigeon pieces on top and pour half the reduced stock over them. Add the scrambled eggs, then the rest of the reduced stock. Spread the cinnamon, almond and sugar mixture over in an even layer. Put 2 more layers of filo, brushed with butter, over the top of the pie, then tuck in all the overlapping edges and brush with yet more butter.
Place the pie in an oven preheated to 220°C/Gas Mark 7 until the top is crisp and golden – about 10 minutes. Take the pie out and turn it out, upside down, on to a flat baking sheet. Put it back in the oven for another 5–10 minutes, until it is crisp and golden brown top and bottom. Turn the right way up again on to a serving plate.
Dust the finished pie with more icing sugar and decorate with thin lines of ground cinnamon in a criss-cross diamond-shaped pattern. Serve at once, still piping hot.

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