Our original restaurant, The Shed, opened 8 years ago this month and, bar Covid, has been a huge success ever since. One of our early traditions was to offer the well-heeled, local residents of Notting Hill and Kensington “Beers for Birds” after their weekends away shooting. Early in the week regular customers would bring in a few brace of Partridge, Pheasant or Grouse, donate them to our kitchen and in exchange have some complimentary drinks in the bar. They would of course then be tempted to stay for dinner and make an evening of it – a win-win for all concerned.
Wood pigeon is another bird in plentiful supply. They visit us in multitudes during the grape ripening season in the Gladwin vineyard and Gregory has both a duty and the sport of reducing their population. Nothing is wasted so these too make their way to the Gladwin dining rooms.
Oliver developed this recipe for ‘The Shed’ cookbook and it has been a favourite ever since. Saltimbocca is an ancient Italian dish, traditionally using veal infused with sage and wrapped in prosciutto. Here we are substituting wood pigeon for the veal, but it is good with the breasts of any game bird. The dish is pan-fried then finishing with pan juices and red grapes- perhaps the very grapes the woodpigeon were after!
4 wood pigeon breasts (or 8 if you are greedy)
4 sage leaves
4 thin slices of lemon
4 long slices of Parma ham
salt and freshly ground black pepper
40g unsalted butter
20ml Red Wine
1 Tsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tsp Honey
1 Tsp French mustard
80gm Red Grapes- Halved and seeded
Small punnet of salad leaves
• Place the pigeon breasts on a chopping board and carefully cut a slot across the middle without cutting into two.
• Put a sage leaf and a slice of lemon inside each one. Then wrap a slice of ham around to form a parcel. Season with salt and pepper.
• Heat a heavy-based frying pan over a moderate heat and melt the butter.
• Fry the pigeon breasts for 2–3 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and keep warm.
• Return the frying pan to a high heat and quickly add the red wine, balsamic, honey and mustard.
• Stir rapidly, let it sizzle and deglaze the pan and then toss in the grapes.
• Carve the pigeon breasts into 3 and arrange on the bed of salad leaves. Spoon over the glaze with the grapes and serve immediately.
Richard’s wines to match
The amazing flavours of wild birds enable us to make some extraordinary wine pairings. Here I am suggesting a dry “salty” Manzanilla Sherry. Or an oaked South African Chenin Blanc; or an exquisite red from Georgia by the black Sea. Did you know that Georgia has a 6000 year old wine-making tradition with vinification taking place in underground ceramic gourds?
La Gitana, Manzanilla: toasty fino sherry with yeasty character and fresh zesty liveliness. This is such an underrated wine.
Stellenrust 53 Chenin Blanc: peachy or Tropical Fruits, full bodied, decident with retained high acidity. A world class wine with careful use of oak which is long lasting in the mouth
Tbilvino Mukuzani Special Reserve from Georgia: this wine is matured in French oak for 15 months to create a balanced and complex palate of tannins, dark fruit, and vanilla. Tobacco, blackberry, and blackcurrant notes give way to a long elegant finish.