Pigeon with red wine-braised radicchio and grapes

I’ve a new web series for Borough Market: ‘Single Minded’. Aside from the occasional special themed week in the supplements, or books like Signe Johansen’s Solo; the joy of cooking for one, most recipes ignore the solo eater. Seems to be an oversight. So with the Market I’m going to be looking at redressing that (albeit ever so slightly).

You should head to their site to read the introductory column. And I’ve reproduced the recipe below — on the face of it, the dish is a little fancy, but (a) it’s not difficult and takes very little hands-on effort; (b) if you still think it is, over the coming months I’ll be doing some simple but effective one-potters to sink into too; and (c) one of the reasons to do this series was the belief that solo eaters shouldn’t just revert to ‘I can’t be arsed to cook anything nice for myself’.

Pigeon with baked celeriac, red wine-braised radicchio and grapes

This is, I think, a pretty foolproof way to cook wood pigeon to a perfect pink. And that bird makes a rich (though inexpensive) roast for one; maybe it looks a little fancy, but it’s really not much effort.

Does require a glass or two of red wine on the side, in addition to the glass you used during the cooking process.

  • 1 celeriac (800g-1kg)
  • 1 wood pigeon
  • 20g butter (fridge cold, diced)
  • 1/2 small radicchio tardivo, leaves separated
  • 60g seedless red grapes
  • 100ml red wine (something cherry and black fruity, like chianti)
  • 1 teaspoon aged balsamic

Heat your oven to 180C fan / 200C. Wash and then trim the gnarliest roots from the celeriac so that it stands flat. Place it on a small baking sheet and then put that in the middle of the oven for 1 1/2 hours. Go for a run, clean the house, take a break, drink some (but not all) of the wine.

Once the time is up, remove the celeriac and leave it to carry on steaming itself within its skin while you cook the rest of the dish. Lower the temperature to 150C fan / 170C.

Remove the wishbone from the pigeon — this makes cutting the breasts off once cooked much easier, and ensures maximum yield. Season the bird inside and out.

Put a small, oven-proof frying pan or skillet on a high heat. Add half the butter, then as it’s melting and foaming, fry and brown the pigeon for a minute on each of the breasts, and another 30 seconds on its base.  Place the pan and pigeon in the oven for 6 minutes if you like it pink, 7 if you prefer it blushing, before transferring the bird to a warm plate to rest for 5 minutes more.

Meanwhile, put that same pan back over a high heat (remember the handle will be very very hot). Pour in the wine and reduce by 2/3rds (this may take 3 minutes). Add the remaining butter and whisk this into the wine, before adding the grapes, radicchio and balsamic vinegar and cooking for 90 seconds more.

Cut the celeriac in half and then one of the halves in half again. Set 3/4 of the celeriac to one side (see below), remove the skin from the remainder and cut into chunks.

Remove the breasts from the pigeon, salt the underside generally. Then put both pigeon and celeriac on your plate, finishing with the radicchio, grapes and red wine sauce.

The leftovers

  • Celeriac — you’ll have about 3/4 of the baked celeriac left over. Simply cut the skin away, cube the flesh, and for another meal warm that up again in 50ml or so of milk, plus butter, salt and pepper, and mash or purée it. Alternatively add a little more milk (or use stock), heat and then blend to make a soup.
  • Grapes — pick away for breakfast, snacks and puddings.
  • Radicchio — keeps well if in brown paper bag in fridge. Use the remaining 1/2 in salads, sandwiches, or wilt as a side dish for another meal.
  • Red wine — you know what to do.