Pigeon Breasts with Pomegranate Molasses and Soy Sauce

Pigeon is a very underused meat (at least it is in the UK) but it's far too nice to ignore. I remember that it became quite a trendy thing to eat in the 1980s, often in warm salads or served with soy sauce and sesame. Then it seemed to fade away again. Admittedly pigeon does have disadvantages - there's not a huge amount of meat on a pigeon and what there is can be tough. But it really doesn't have to be like that.

This sauce is based loosely on a Ming Tsai recipe from the 1990s (if memory serves) and the whole dish is simple to put together. Do make sure that you allow enough time for the marinade to do its work, though. I served the pigeon with simply steamed potatoes and roasted beetroot this time, but rice or mash (sweet potato mash, maybe) would be fine and dandy too. You could also ease off on the amount of sauce and make the pigeon the star of a warm salad with interesting leaves, new potatoes and whatever else you fancy. (That's a very 1980s option but it's one that's worth reviving).

I find that it's easier to get hold of pigeon breasts than whole pigeons these days, but if you're faced with whole pigeons, then remove the breasts and make a stock with the rest of the birds. I know that might sound like a bit of a faff but pigeon stock is lovely stuff and really useful for casseroles and sauces.

Sorry about the quality of the picture - it's what happens when you use a camera that's punching above its weight in the dark.

Pigeon Breasts with Pomegranate Molasses

This will serve 2 people.

For the marinade:
          3 tbsp pomegranate molasses
          2 tbsp light soy sauce
          1 tbsp honey
          1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
          1 clove of garlic, crushed or grated
          about 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger

4 pigeon breasts, skin removed

Mix together all the marinade ingredients, pour over the pigeon breasts and place in the fridge for around 2 hours.

Drain the breasts, reserving the marinade, and fry in a little oil over a medium heat for about 4 minutes, turning once. The pigeon should be cooked but still quite rare. It's really easy to overcook the pigeon and end up with tough meat, so keep an eye on the time.

Remove the breasts from the pan and set aside but keep them warm. Pour the marinade into the pan, turn up the heat and reduce the amount of liquid a little (or as much as you fancy). Immediately before serving return the pigeon breasts briefly to the pan and coat in the sauce.


  1. Phil, if you think pigeon is underused in the UK, multiply that by about 3,789 for the US. So I'm not likely to be making this dish unless I nab a pigeon on my own, which I'm far too squeamish to do, but I must say your preparation sounds very good. Might use it on something more readily attainable.

    1. I didn't know that pigeon was so rarely used over there. It seems that the UK is not alone in avoiding this particular bird. Historically we were much more enthusiastic about pigeon - hence the large number of ancient dovecotes and colombiers or pigeonniers scattered around the UK and France. I must admit that I'd rather eat them than let them devour and generally destroy the plants in my garden.

  2. We have a lot of very plump and tasty looking pigeons here in our little corner of France but sadly no way of getting them from tree to table, although Daisy the cat is doing her best. Her repertoire of trophies so far includes a mole, a moorhen, a stoat, a bat and a snake. She brought the snake upstairs to show us how clever she was very early one morning. It was very cross but lived to tell the tale, as did we.
    Pigeon seems to have vanished from menus lately, after a degree of overkill on MasterChef, but if I ever see some for sale I shall buy it and try this recipe as it looks delicious and not at all fiddly.

    1. I didn't know that pigeon had been featured on TV but I can understand why because it can be a challenge to cook just right. I think it's best to keep it simple. I do sometimes wonder if I'm just repeating a similar recipe that's been featured on one of those cooking competition programmes. I'm afraid I never watch them and so I apologise if I have repeated anything.

  3. This takes me back to West Wales when my late husband went pigeon shooting! Poor bird he finally shot had more lead in it than meat! Never seen any pigeon for sale round here, and sadly no butchers to ask, only in the supermarkets. The marinade sounds delicious. What other meats could you use with it?

    1. I find it strange that we're told that we have more choice than ever in the shops but there are some things like pigeon, rabbit or some other types of game that were much easier to buy 30 years ago. I get my pigeon at local farmers' markets, although the supply can be a bit erratic. The marinade has a lot of flavour and would overwhelm delicate meats. I've used it very happily with duck in the past and I think it works pretty well with a tasty piece of pork.

  4. Thanks Phil. You're right about rabbit - never see it here, and I love it.


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