Pigeons and doves belong to the colum-bidae family of birds. There are many species, most of them wild and most of them edible. The pigeon which is domesticated shares a common ancestor, the rock dove, with those bred for sport and ornament.

Pigeons are best eaten young when the breast is plump and the skin pink. Young pigeons are suitable for roasting and grilling and older pigeons for making casseroles and stews. A pigeon under 5 weeks old is called a SQUAB. It weighs under a pound, is plump and tender and usually grilled or roasted. The pigeon’s liver contains no gall, and because of this, it is usually left inside the bird while it is cooking.

When buying pigeons, it is best to buy them oven-ready and prepared for cooking. Allow approximately one pigeon per person.

To roast a pigeon, preheat the oven to moderate 350’F (Gas Mark 4, 180°C). Place the pigeon in a roasting tin. Lay a slice of streaky bacon over the breast. For each pigeon, spoon over 1 ounce of melted butter. Basting occasionally, roast for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until the breast is tender when pierced with the point of a sharp knife. Remove the bacon for the last 20 minutes of the cooking time to allow the breast of the bird to colour. The pigeon may be stuffed or left plain.

Serve garnished with watercress.

To grill a pigeon, preheat the grill to high. Cut the pigeon in half and lay the halves on the rack in the grill pan.

Brush with 1 ounce of melted butter. Place the pan under the grill and grill , turning and basting occasionally, for 15 minutes or until the breast is tender when pierced with the point of a sharp knife.

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