Pigeon gets a bad rap, but good wild country birds (not the mangy kind you see wandering around cities!) produce one of the most delicious and underrated meats in the world (as long as it’s cooked medium rare). In the past, I’ve seared pigeon breast, put it inside some lovely bread and had people tell me it’s the best steak sandwich they’ve ever had! So here’s how it’s done ... This makes a brilliant casual lunch, dinner or snack with a nice salad.
Turn the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Put the onions into a large pan on a medium low heat and add a lug of olive oil, a pinch of salt and white pepper, the sugar and the thyme leaves. Put the lid on and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. After this time, remove the lid, turn the heat up to high and give the onions a good stir, then add the vinegar and stir again. Leave the lid off and continue to cook down until the onions are really sticky and slightly golden. Keep your eye on them.
Put the ciabatta into the hot oven. Heat a large non-stick pan on a high heat. Finely chop the rosemary leaves and put them into a mixing bowl. Add the pigeon breasts, drizzle over some olive oil, season with salt and pepper and grate over a few scrapings of nutmeg. Toss the pigeon until coated. Once the pan is really hot, add a lug of olive oil and the bay leaves and put in the breasts, skin side down so they crisp up nicely. Cook for around 2½ minutes on the skin side and 1 minute on the other side for tender and blushing medium- rare meat, which trust me is what you want – anything over that and it will be tough and boring. As you remove the pan from the heat, shake in a few good drizzles of Worcestershire sauce, then toss the meat in the juices. Move to a board and slice thinly at an angle.
Get the warm bread out of the oven, open it out with a serrated knife, put it on a nice board and spread as much mustard as you dare on one side (be confident – you can spread a little butter on if you want, but I don’t because the meat juices are enough). Put big pinches of watercress and those sticky onions down one side. Arrange the slices of pigeon around the sandwich, then dollop small amounts of cottage cheese in and around the meat. Push the top of the sandwich down and hold it for a couple of seconds so it sucks up all those juices. I always stab a knife through the sandwich to hold it together and make it look manly when you take it to the table. Serve next to a pint of good British ale.