Pigeons considered as a delicacy and best served with lamb and rice stuffed grapes leave. Pigeon and grape leaves. If you said half of this sentence in a fill the blanks game, anyone with an Egyptian background would know the answer.
We eat all the pigeon. Head to legs, some people eat even the bones of it because pigeons bones are so thin and can be easily chewed, we also eat it well done. Ideally, it’s served one per person. You can eat it alone and be totally full, and you can eat a couple of grape leaves with it and be totally satisfied. Pigeons taste is similar to doves but hold much flavor and nuttiness. You can also make this recipe with squabs.
One of the favorite ways of serving pigeon in Egypt is to be stuffed with green cracked wheat called freek; it has a nutty fulfilling taste that would be your next love and forget about quinoa if you find it in your stores. We stuff pigeons with either freek or Egyptian rice. The differentiation comes from the origins of each family and how their city, families do it regularly. In our family, we always stuff it with freek, and that’s today’s recipe!
1 cup (¼ cup of the cracked wheat mixture for each pigeon)Freek
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons of oil
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Let the pigeons come to room temperature for 30 minutes.
The pigeons should be cleaned and have the giblets with it. If you get the whole bird from a butcher, it is often packaged with the giblets, sometimes sealed in a bag in the body cavity. You can get it from the middle eastern or Asian supermarket. If the bird doesn’t have its giblets see tips at the end of the recipe.
The bird should be clean but, it also should be cleaned at home.
How to clean it: take out the giblets (heart, gizzard, and liver) and set aside, make a salt/ vinegar/ flour bath and soak the pigeons in it for 5 minutes (the lungs should be thrown away). Wash with clean water, drain in a colander. You should get it in a standing position to get all the water out of it.
Prepare the freek. Wash it with clean water and drain it. Get it into a pan and add hot water, the water should reach half of the freek in the pan. Bring to the boil. Lower the heat you should keep your eyes on it until it’s done it should never stick to the pan. Stir in salt, pepper, and 3 tablespoons of oil when its nearly done and drank all the water.
Stuffing: leave the freek to rest and start stuff the pigeons with it. Add (¼ cup of the cracked wheat mixture into each pigeon. Make sure the stuffing reach the neck. Close the cavity between the legs with the giblets (the heart, gizzard, and liver), and tie the legs together and make sure it’s closed so the stuffing won’t fall when cooked.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place the pigeons, breast-side up in a large casserole dish or ovenproof. Pour 2 cups of water or to half of the pigeons’ bodies. Stir in salt, pepper, and sage in the water. Bring to boil. You want to get the legs and wings halfway cooked before the birds go into the oven. You don’t want to sear the breast; This should take about 6 to 10 minutes. Place the dish in the oven and braise for about 1½ hours. Or the pigeons drink all the water.
About 10 minutes before you remove the pigeons from the oven, Baste with oil with a brush. Roast for 10 minutes. And open the grill to crisp up the skin. Remove from oven and Let the pigeons rest for 5 minutes before serving… And serve.
Where to find the ingredients: If your bird doesn’t have gilberts. Sew the body cavity of each pigeon closed with a trussing needle and tie the legs together.
Freek can be found with other Middle Eastern ingredients in supermarkets. Also, you can find pigeon at the Middle Eastern and Asian supermarkets.
When you can’t find freek: If you can’t find freek anywhere, you can make the recipe with Egyptian rice. Stir in one large onion with the rice in a pan with salt and pepper and mix it over low heat until its half done. Don’t overcook the rice because it’ll take more time when you stuff it in the pigeon. Continue with the same steps.
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