I initially came up with the idea for this dish after reading a 1940s recipe for deep-fried doves in Roy Wall’s Fish and Game Cookery. His recipe is old school, with the doves fried in shortening and served with a red-eye gravy. Good, but not my style.
I decided to make this dish Middle Eastern, Turkish, really. I like frying things in chickpea flour, which is available in good supermarkets, Italian and Indian stores. You could substitute in some other earthy-tasting flour: The easiest alternative would be whole wheat. I laced the flour with a typical mixture of Middle Eastern spices: garlic, chile, cumin, sumac and fenugreek.
Can you use domestic squab in this recipe? I never have, but I bet it would work. Squab are a lot larger than doves, however, so you’ll need only 1 per person maximum. Quail might be a better choice, as they are smaller.
Keys to this recipe are letting the doves rest with the salt on them — it’s like a quick salt-cure; patting them dry afterwards, and keeping the oil hot. This means you’ll need to fry the doves a few at a time. Keep them warm in the oven while you do the rest.
- 8 to 12 doves, plucked and gutted
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat or chickpea flour
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon sumac (optional)
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 2 tablespoons cayenne (or to your taste)
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- Oil for frying
- Wash the doves, then salt them well and set aside at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes.
- Pour the oil — I use canola or peanut or cheap olive oil — into a deep-fryer or heavy, high-sided pot like a Dutch oven. A fryer will have a fill line. Pour no more than 2/3 of the pot’s depth, and half is better. Don’t worry, you can reuse the oil.
- Heat the oil slowly, over medium heat, to 350°F. If you are using olive oil, keep it at 340°F.
- Meanwhile, mix the flour and all the spices together in a bowl and coat the doves.
- When the oil is hot, drop in a couple doves at a time and let them fry for 5-7 minutes, turning them to be sure they are golden brown all over.
- Let drain on a rack in an oven set to ‘warm.’
- Serve with hummus and flatbread with a bunch of random herbs to eat with it — cilantro, mint, basil, green onions, etc. Be sure to put out a bowl for the bones and give your guests plenty of napkins.