Food and drink

Pigeon breast with sprouts, bacon and chestnuts


Chestnuts are one of those things you see in the supermarket at this time of year but never get round to actually buying. Well, this week I put those conkers in my trolley. I had some sprouts left over and wanted to try them with the chestnuts and some bacon. It sounded like a great companion for some pigeon breasts I had in the freezer.

I didn’t put a lot of thought into the pigeon, figuring it would just take care of itself. A quick stint in a hot pan for a few minutes each side would be all they’d need. All my prep efforts went on the chestnuts. Who would have thought that some little nuts would be such a pain in the arse?

Following some instructions from Leith’s Cookery Bible, I put a slice in each chestnut and boiled them for 15 minutes. This should make them easier to peel. Now I don’t know how hard they are to peel uncooked but peeling the cooked ones took about 30 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back. The thick outer shell came off easy enough, but the brown skin stubbornly refused to come off easily. I honestly can’t see why anyone would want to bother doing that when you can buy them pre-peeled.

Seasonal and local is all very well but frankly if I can avoid scratching the skin off of chestnuts for half an hour I’ll go for the stuff in tins.

On a happier note all the effort was totally worth it. Boiled and peeled the chestnuts were ok. Browning them in a frying pan for a few minutes with some bacon made them amazing! All the flavour lifted to the front and concentrated.

They matched up perfectly with the pigeon, but then chestnuts, pigeon and sprouts are bang in season just now. Nature doesn’t do much coincidences, if food is in season together it very often tastes good together.

Serves 2

4 pigeon breasts
3 rashers of back bacon cut into strips (we’re still following our enforced low-fat diet, otherwise I’d use 4 rashers of streaky)
1 bag of chestnuts (about 15-20), peeled
Brussel sprouts, washed, peeled and trimmed.

Boil the sprouts in some salted water for 5 minutes (don’t over cook them!)
While the sprouts are cooking, fry the bacon in a large pan.
As the bacon starts to turn crispy add the chestnuts so they start to gently brown.
Drain the sprouts and add them to the frying pan as well.
Add a small knob of butter and some seasoning, cook for another minutes then pour everything into a dish to keep warm in a low oven.
Season the pigeon breasts and fry in the pan for 2-3 minutes on each side (or longer if you prefer it less pink).
Set aside the pigeon to rest in a warm place while you serve the sprouts, bacon and chestnuts.
Once the pigeon has rested for a couple of minutes add it to the plate and enjoy!

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