Pigeon and Pickled Wild Mushroom Bruschetta with Blackberry Dressing
Full recipe from edition 7
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Combining the flavours of the season is what Giuseppe does best. It makes perfect sense that the foraged food around us at anytime of the year marries beautifully together – wild mushrooms with blackberries and freshly picked winter salad leaves from the garden. The Italians like to keep their food simple: fabulous ingredients cooked with the minimum of fuss delivering maximum flavour – and what could be more simple and, it may surprise you, affordable than pigeon breast?
This season’s recipe combines this tender, tasty bird with pickled wild mushrooms and a deliciously sweet blackberry dressing. Yes, Giuseppe has been out with his foraging basket again and in between gathering fungi, leaves and berries for the cookery school, he has put together this quick and easy bruschetta recipe, perfect for a light yet warming winter lunch. If you haven’t got a ready stash of pickled mushrooms in your cupboard, you could add some lightly sauteed fresh ones. Ideally, start filling your cupboard whilst produce is in season – pickle and dry mushrooms, make syrups or cordials with blackberries and elderberries, or chutneys with apples and pears; invest a little time now and have all the flavours of Autumn to carry you through the year. In the meantime, when I can’t find Giuseppe, I guarantee he will be out walking the woods or shoreline in search of simple, delicious ingredients for our next meal! So, if you see a Sicilian, basket on arm, give him a smile or a wave and send him my way!
4 pigeon breasts
4 slices of ciabatta bread (1.5cm or half inch thick)
80g pancetta cubes
60g baby salad leaves or rocket
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tip (3inches) of each of the following herbs: rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, sage.
Salt & pepper
4 tbsp pickled wild mushrooms (see recipe at the end)
For the blackberry dressing:
50ml balsamic vinegar
1tsp of caster sugar
25ml olive oil
Place the bread on an oven tray, drizzle with olive oil and set to one side.
Season the pigeon breasts with salt and pepper.
Place a frying pan on a medium-heat, add the sunflower oil and once hot, gently place the pigeon in the pan among the herbs, skin-side down. Add seasoning and, just before turning, sprinkle the pancetta.
Sear for 3 minutes until the flesh becomes a nice, rich colour, then turn over and cook for further 3 minutes. Turn off and leave to rest for few more minutes before slicing.
In the meantime, prepare the blackberry dressing
Mix the balsamic vinegar, sugar and blackberries in a small saucepan on a medium heat.
Cook for 3/5 minutes, pass through a sieve then add the olive oil.
Place the drizzled bread under a preheated grill and toast on one side only until golden brown in colour.
… assemble the dish: bruschetta first, then top with salad, layer the sliced pigeon breast over the leaves, scatter the rest of the pancetta and pickled wild mushrooms and, finally, drizzle blackberry dressing appealingly.
Pickled Wild Mushrooms in Olive Oil
500g fresh mushrooms
1 fresh chilli pepper (optional)
For the Brine
500ml white wine vinegar
2 bay leaves
1 tip of rosemary
1 tip of thyme
2 cloves of garlic
1tbsp caster sugar
Clean the mushrooms then slice or cut according to size.
Place all the brine ingredients in a large, non-corrosive pan and bring to the boil. Add the mushrooms all at once or in batches, boil, allowing 5 minutes for large mushrooms 3 minutes for smaller ones.
Drain and, without using your hands as the mushrooms are now sterilized, spread over a very clean cloth to cool and dry.
Put a few mushrooms into a sterilised jar, pour oil to cover and mix gently so that the oil coats the mushrooms completely. Add more mushrooms and oil in this way until the jar is full. If you wish, add a few chili peppers, bay leaves, garlic, thyme and rosemary for extra flavour.
Close the lid tightly; best kept for at least a month before opening and for up to a year thereafter. Should mould-spots appear, simply rinse then boil the mushrooms again before re-jarring with fresh oil.