There are many versions of this Quercy staple. One can stuff the birds merely with the chopped liver, breadcrumbs and perhaps a little leftover Toulouse sausage, the way a frugal countrywoman would. However you can also make it into an altogether more sophisticated dish with equally local ingredients.
This is my version of the deliciously sophisticated option – to serve 6.
6 Plump Fresh Pigeons, Plucked and Cleaned
250g Chopped Quercy Walnuts
250g Sultanas or Reine Claudes
Four Handfuls Breadcrumbs
Two Cloves Garlic
Pinch Quercy Saffron Threads
Tablespoon of Melted Honey
Juice and rind of a whole lemon
A Handful of Chopped Fresh Parsley
A Little Butter
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C
Gently fry two chopped cloves of garlic in a little butter, add 200ml boiling water and the saffron threads. Add the sultanas and simmer for ten minutes. Drain and leave to cool.
Toast the walnuts briefly and mix with the breadcrumbs, half the sultana mixture, the beaten eggs, half the chopped parsley a good squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste and a little olive oil. Carefully stuff the pigeons with this mixture.
Place the birds in a deep roasting tin and pour a little more olive oil over each. Dot each bird with butter and place in the centre of the oven for about 30minutes, until golden brown.
Take the birds out of the oven, arrange on a hot serving plate and glaze with the melted honey. Pour over the saffron and the remaining half sultana mixture and garnish with the remaining parsley.
This dish is excellent served with couscous or rice and some oven-roasted red peppers. It can equally well form part of a roast dinner and be served with small roast potatoes and a green salad.
In the summer months you can substitute the sultanas for the sumptuous little Reine Claude plums that abound in the markets, as they are fresh they will not need to be simmered first.