S O Y  W O O D  P I G E O N  S A L A D

W I T H

P O R K  B E L L Y  L A R D O N S

Preparation time: 12-15 minutes

Cooking time: 9-10 minutes

Serves: 4 as a main course

Season: Wood pigeons available year-round

200 g smoked pork belly lardons (for pancetta)

4 plump wood pigeon breasts, skinned

2 tblsp extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 medium bulb fennel

1 tblsp rice wine vinegar

2 tblsp mirin or Chinese cooking wine

3 tblsp soy sauce

200 g frisee lettuce

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Place a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add the olive oil and fry the lardons until crisp and lightly browned around the edges.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer them to a warm plate.  Check the level of oil-rendered fat in the frying pan: you want about 1 tblsp.  If there is more, spoon off the surplus into a ramekin to solidify and discard later (into the rubbish, not down the sink).  

Remove the outer later of the fennel and slice the bulb into quarters.  Using the tip of your knife, cut out part of the fennel heart, leaving only the thin portion that will hold the fennel leaves in place.  Slice the fennel as thinly as possible, lengthwise through the core.  Add to the frying pan and sauté until slightly browned around the edges.

Peel and crush the garlic with some salt with a pestle and mortar.  Wash and remove the leaves from the thyme stems; bruise a little by rubbing them between your fingers.  Add the thyme, along with the garlic, to the frying pan with the fennel.  Cook for 30 seconds to sauté and release their flavour.

If there is enough room in the pan, push the fennel to the sides and place the pigeon breasts in the hot pan.  Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.  The breasts don't take long, 2 minutes on each side should be perfect.  Remove the pigeon and fennel from the pan and place on the plate with the lardons.  Cover and allow to rest whilst you make the sauce.

Add the rice wine vinegar and mirin to the pan.  Using a wooden spoon, work any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan into the liquid.  Reduce the wine and vinegar down to about 1 tblsp.  Add the soy sauce and again reduce until slightly thickened.  Remove from the heat and set aside.  

Slice the breasts on the diagonal into three or four thick slices each.  Wash and dry the frisee thoroughly and pile the leaves onto four plates.  Arrange the fennel and pork belly lardons on top, along with the wood pigeon.  Spoon over the pan juices, season with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve.