Last Updated on October 17, 2021
Skip straight to my pigeon breast recipe for a flying steak sandwich
This idea comes from the charming Jamie Oliver. It fits well with the ethos of The Frugal Flexitarian because although it isn’t vegetarian in any way, it’s made using sustainable meat from pigeon. In my case, the pigeon breasts came from Wild and Game who supply frozen game of all sorts. Wood pigeon is wild game, rich and fine-grained meat that is darker and more flavoursome than chicken. It’s sustainable and there is plenty in the UK – so you will be buying local meat with a low carbon footprint. It’s also packed with vitamins and minerals and rich in protein. The perfect flexitarian meat.
You’ll need two pigeon breasts per person (more if anyone has a large appetite). Pigeon tastes best cooked rare or medium-rare and you’ll find it has a delicious, earthy gamey flavour.
I like serving pigeon breast with red wine and berry sauce for a posh dinner. But, for a quick lunch or supper dish, this ‘flying steak sandwich’ is absolutely delicious and the only part of the recipe that takes time is making the caramelised onion. My tip for that is to quadruple the quantity in the recipe and store what you don’t use in the fridge. It will keep well in a sealed Tupperware dish for 2 weeks and you can use it for all sorts of dishes – even stirring it into a savoury rice recipe.
Now, I love a good steak sandwich. But, it’s probably not the best option if you are trying to cut down on your red meat consumption. I’ve tried to find some robust data to compare the carbon footprint of beef with pigeon and failed to do so. I did, however, find a feature from someone who has swapped out their beef for pigeon and believes that pound for pound pigeon has 1/1000th of the impact of beef. And Jamie reckons that
‘In the past, I’ve seared pigeon breast, put it inside some lovely bread and had people tell me it’s the best steak sandwich they’ve ever had! ‘
My recipe is based on how I’d normally make a steak sandwich and how I like to cook pigeon breast. If you think it’s got a bit more bread than you’d like, I’d suggest serving it as an open sandwich.
Start by making the caramelised red onion. I used one whole onion and had half leftover for later use. If I wasn’t about to start having my kitchen renovated, I’d have made at least 2 onions worth. Caramalised onions are really a ‘waiting game’. You need to cook them very gently for at least half an hour and preferably a whole hour. If you are impatient like me, then a teaspoon of sugar will help move things along a bit.
Once the onions are cooked and put to one side, you just need to season and pan fry the pigeon breasts for 2 minutes on each side maximum, then let them rest for the same length of time before slicing them along the grain of the meat. Put the sandwich together with a slice of buttered sourdough topped with a smidgen of mustard, a handful of wild rocket and a teaspoon of caramelised onions. Then, add the warm sliced pigeon breast, more onion, more rocket and top with the second slice of sourdough bread. That’s it. You can vary this recipe with toasted bread or a warm crusty roll. And, you can add in more garnishes to your own taste. I like a little grainy mustard but you might prefer a fruit jelly. You could even make it with a few slices of brie.
Want to try for yourself? Here’s the basic recipe in printable form
Flying Steak Sandwich
- 1 red onion
- 2 wild pigeon breasts
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard
- 1 handful wild rocket
- 2 slices sourdough bread
- butter optional
- salt and pepper
- Peel and chop the onion
- Put the oil into a heavy-based skillet
- Cook the onions very slowly in the oil for around 50 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent burning
- After 30 minutes, if you want to help caramelise the onions stir through a teaspoon of sugar
- If the mixture starts to dry out, then add a tablespoon of water
- Once the onions are soft and caramelised, take them out of the pan and keep warm. Leave as much oil in the pan as possible
- Season the pigeon breasts with salt and pepper
- Turn the heat up so that the oil is just sizzling and add the pigeon breasts to the pan
- Cook on one side for 2 minutes, pressing down gently with a spatula or the back of a wooden spoon
- Flip the pigeon breasts and cook on the other side for a further 1-2 minutes
- Take out of the pan and allow to rest while you start to construct the sandwich
- Butter the bread if you like.
- Spread the mustard over the bread
- Add half the rocket
- Add a teaspoon of caramelised onion
- Slice the pigeon breast and arrange it on top of the onion
- Top with the remaining rocket and another teaspoon of onion
- Finish with the remaining slice of bread.