At the Buck and Birch, we love using all that our natural larder has to offer. This recipe showcases wood pigeon breast, an absolute favourite of ours. It is a lean, nutrient packed little morsel. Rich and juicy if cooked well, it’s hard to imagine the meat is so under used that sometimes it is left for the foxes. For us it is far too good to waste and we like to honour the birds by serving it up with a little of what it likes to eat.

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Serves 8


8 wood pigeon breasts, skinless and boneless

200g pearl barley

50g butter

16 medium kale leaves

100ml birch sap wine, or dry white wine

500ml game or chicken stock

50g diced shallots

2 cloves of garlic

Cold pressed rapeseed oil

1 large sprig of thyme, destemmed

For the sauce

50ml Aelder Elixir

25ml elderberry vinegar, red wine or balsamic vinegar

25g sugar

50g raspberries or other soft fruit


1 First place a pan of salted water on the heat. In another pan bring the stock to a simmer. Place the pigeon breasts on an oiled tray and brush with more rapeseed oil, checking for shot with your fingers.

2 In a heavy bottomed pot over a medium high heat, add a glug of oil and half the butter. Quickly fry the shallots and garlic and add the pearl barley. Stir it for two or three minutes until the barley grains are toasty and nutty. Gradually add the stock and the wine and lower to a simmer with a lid on to cook until tender. Stir occasionally.

3 Blanch the kale in the boiling salted water, refresh in cold water and pat dry.

4 For the sauce, place the vinegar and sugar in a saucepan, boil until syrupy and add the Aelder Elixir. Reduce by half, add the fruit and remove from the heat. Once cool pass through a fine sieve and reserve.

5 To serve, place the pigeon under a preheated hot grill, or in medium frying pan, for four to five minutes, turning once. It should be still yielding and soft to the touch. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to rest for two minutes.

6 Reheat the kale in a pan with some oil.

7 Add the last of the butter and thyme to the barley risotto and stir well. Carve the pigeon on the diagonal into 4 pieces each and keep warm.

8 Place a good spoon of the barley on the plate, then the kale and arrange the pigeon on top. Drizzle with the sauce, a drop more oil and garnish with kale flowers or just more thyme.