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Pigeons - cooked in a Spanish-style with Chocolate

In Spain, tender farm-reared squabs would probably be used for this dish, but they are rare and expensive in Britain. If finding them, reduce the cooking time considerably.
A similar technique can be used for both partridge and hare.


Equipment needed: A heavy frying pan; a deep casserole with a tight-fitting lid

Ingredients for 4 people:

- 4 pigeons, larded
- 4 tablespoons (60ml) mild Olive Oil
- 1 big Onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 medium clove of Garlic, peeled and chopped
- 150ml/¼ pint Dry White Wine
- 850ml/1½ pints Chicken Stock (q.v.) - or made with a stock cube
- 75g/3oz Butter
- 16-20 Picking Onions
- 1 dessertspoon (10ml) of sugar
- 1 rounded tablespoon (16ml) of flour
- 2 teaspoons of Plain Chocolate (such as Bournville), coarsely-grated
- 1 Lemon, cut into 4 wedges


- Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan, and brown the pigeons all over. Transfer them to a casserole, with a tight-fitting lid.

- Lower the heat a little; then lightly fry the sliced onions until just starting to take on a colour, adding the chopped garlic after five minutes.

- Add the onions and garlic to the pigeon casserole, leaving behind as much oil as possible.

- Pour in the white wine, and enough chicken stock to cover the birds - depending on the shape of your casserole, you might not need it all, but if you require more, top-up with a little water.

- Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a bare simmer. Cover with the lid, and cook as slowly as possible for 1½-2hours. This will vary on the age of your pigeons, so check occasionally. If your flame is too powerful to maintain a bare simmer, you can cook the casserole in the oven at 150°C/300°F/Gas 2, for the same length of time.

- While the pigeons are cooking, prepare the glazed onions - peel them, keeping the root on if possible, as this helps hold them together.

- Put them in a saucepan or frying pan, big enough to hold them in a single layer.

- Cover them with water, then add 50g/2oz of the butter and the sugar.

- Boil hard so that the liquid evaporates to a golden brown glaze.

- Keep a careful eye on them, as they mustn't burn. Shaking the pan gently so they are coated in the caramel.

- When the birds are almost done - when the legs loose move loosely and the meat begins to part from the breastbone, remove 600ml/1 pint of stock from the casserole.

- Reduce this removed stock by boiling it until just 300ml/½ pint remains.

- Skim off any fat that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat so that the stock is barely simmering.

- Mash the remaining butter with the flour to form a beurre manié, and add it in small knobs to the reduced stock.

- When the sauce has thickened, correct the seasoning with a little salt and pepper - you may not need any, as this will depend on the original flavour of the chicken stock.

- Gradually stir in the grated chocolate..

- Arrange the cooked pigeons on a warmed serving dish with the glazed onions around them.

- Pour a little of the sauce over the birds, and serve the remainder in a jug.

Serve a lemon wedge with each pigeon.

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