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Country Kitchen: Pigeon Tagine

PUBLISHED: 11:45 31 May 2016 | UPDATED: 11:45 31 May 2016

This is a spicy and delicious complement to wood pigeon meat

This is a spicy and delicious complement to wood pigeon meat

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Jane Price spices things up with this North African recipe

Lots of jars mean lots of flavourLots of jars mean lots of flavour

The tagine is a Moroccan stew that takes its name from the heavy earthenware pot with a pointed lid, in which it is slowly cooked, traditionally over an open fire. It can be cooked with any meat but I have used pigeon for this recipe and it works very well.

The method is low, slow cooking and I have done this in a heavy cast iron pot, which can be used on the hob and in the oven. You could use a traditional tagine pot if you have one but you don’t need to invest in one. Any wide, shallow casserole dish with a lid will work the same. The shallow bottom of a tradition tagine pot helps to braise the meat and you use less liquid than in a deep casserole, giving the sauce an intense flavour.

The spices go on dry and are rubbed in by handThe spices go on dry and are rubbed in by hand

The rich flavours come from a mixture of spices and sweetness. The spices I have used here are cinnamon, ginger, paprika, turmeric and cayenne pepper, and sweetness is provided by honey and dried fruits such as dates, apricots and raisins.

In Morocco, tagines are generally served with bread to mop up the sauce, with couscous being served separately as a dish in its own right. You may also want to keep some natural yogurt handy in case the sauce is too spicy for your own taste.

Frying the meat seals it. The smell was lovelyFrying the meat seals it. The smell was lovely

Ingredients:

4 pigeon breasts

4 tbsp olive oil

3 medium red onions, peeled and chopped

Honey and dried fruits add sweetnessHoney and dried fruits add sweetness

1pint chicken stock

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp turmeric

2 tsp ground cinnamon

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 x 400g tinned chopped tomatoes

8 dried apricots, cut in half

8 dates, cut in half

55g/2oz sultanas or raisins

85g/3oz flaked almonds

1 tbsp clear honey

fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Serves 2

Method:

1. Place the cayenne, paprika, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon into a small bowl and mix to combine. Place the pigeon breasts into a bowl and toss together the spice mix. Cover and leave overnight in the fridge.

2. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas2.

3. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in an oven-proof casserole dish. Add the chopped onion and cook over a gentle heat for 10 minutes so that the onions are soft. Add the crushed garlic for the final 3 minutes.

4. In a separate frying pan, heat the remaining oil and brown the pigeon on all sides then add the browned meat to the casserole dish. De-glaze the frying pan with the chicken stock and add these juices to the dish.

5. Add the chopped tomatoes, apricots, dates, raisins or sultanas, flaked almonds and honey to the casserole dish. Bring to the boil, cover with a fitted lid, place in the oven and cook for 2-2½ hours or until the meat is meltingly tender.

6. Place into a warmed tagine or large serving dish and sprinkle over the chopped herbs.

7. Serve with green olives, flat breads, couscous.

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