Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Honeyed Pigeon and Beetroot Salad

The weather has much improved, and though it's not exactly hot out I decided this week it was time for salad. Really wanted that fabulous melange of flavours and textures that a good salad delivers. Too cold yet for great tomatoes or cucumber I wondered about a warm salad, using tiny potatoes and earthy beetroot. Nuts of course, and garlic crumbs as I seem to have accumulated bits and pieces and ends of loaves and do love the way they fry up to gorgeous. Thought about it for a bit longer then set my heart on pigeon. No idea why - the challenge of cooking something new perhaps, and the swiftness with which they're done has a definite appeal. Robust rather than delicate I figured they would be a good match for the rest of the plate.

I had a jar of Sarah's Wonderful Blueberry Honey, a new Irish product kindly sent to me by Bord Bia. I had a hankering to use that too for St Patrick's Day, to go with potatoes and pigeon and lots of green salad - just seemed right. I made a simple walnut vinaigrette to toss the leaves then made a spectacularly wonderful dressing with the honey and coriander - seeds and root - and a touch of shallot to tease out the sweet earthiness of the beetroot and the pigeon.

Seriously good.

Warm Pigeon and Beetroot Salad

Serves 2

Don't be put off by the long list of ingredients - it really is very quick to make and assemble and you can do pretty much all of it in advance except cook the pigeon

1 or 2 small beetroots
sprig of thyme
1 tbspn cider vinegar
1 tablespoon butter

8-10 new potatoes

50g hazelnuts, lightly toasted and roughly crushed

Small head of oakleaf lettuce
Generous handful of rocket
2 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves, washed and left whole
2 tablespoons walnut oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 rashers smoked bacon, cut into 2cm pieces
4 pigeon breasts
2 sprigs thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 shallot, finely chopped
2cm piece of fresh coriander root, washed
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon blueberry honey
1 tablespoon olive oil

50g hazelnuts

2 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs,
1 clove of crushed garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
A grind of black pepper

Put the beetroot into a large square of foil along with a sprig of thyme, the vinegar and butter and season generously before sealing up the foil. Steam or roast for about 90 minutes until the beetroot is tender. Allow to cool a little then slip the skins off and cut into large dice and put the still warm pieces into a bowl and seal with clingfilm to keep them moist.

Wash and halve the potatoes then bring to the boil in a pan of salted water and cook till tender, 10-15 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.

Put the pigeon in a shallow dish with the thyme sprigs and the oil and allow to sit for a few minutes while you make the salad dressings.

For the green leaves, mix the walnut and olive oils with the lemon juice and season.

For the main dressing, crush the shallot, coriander seeds and root and salt with a pestle and mortar till a smooth aromatic paste is formed. Add the honey and mix well then add enough olive oil to give a slightly runny consistency. Season.

Peel and crush the clove of garlic then fry it in a small pan in the olive oil for a minute. Add the breadcrumbs and continue to fry till they are golden and fragrant, then season with pepper and remove from the heat. Drain on kitchen towel.

Gently toast the hazelnuts until they turn golden, remove from the pan and crush them slightly.

In a small pan fry the bacon on a low heat till the fat starts to rend and goes crisp. Remove from the pan and drain on kitchen paper. Turn the heat up under the same pan add the thyme sprigs for a moment then add the pigeon breasts. Cook for about 2 minutes till well seared on one side then turn them over and cook for another 2 minutes. Turn off the heat but leave the meat in the pan to rest while you assemble the salad.

Toss the leaves with the walnut vinaigrette and strew artfully across a couple of plates. Add the potatoes and drizzle with the remains of the vinaigrette. Add half the blueberry honey dressing to the beetroot, mix well and then add them to the salad. Slice the pigeon into bite size pieces. Scatter the bacon and pigeon across the bed of leaves and drizzle the rest of the honey dressing over the top.

Add the nuts and garlic crumbs and dinner is served!

Thoroughly wonderful meal for us, and I hope you all had a brilliantly enjoyable St Patrick's Day too!

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