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Deep-Fried Doves Middle Eastern Style

deep fried dove

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

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.

Serves 4-6

  • 8-12 doves, plucked and gutted
  • Salt
  • 1 1/2 cups chickpea flour (or another earthy flour)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon sumac
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons cayenne (or to your taste)
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • Oil for frying

 

  1. Wash the doves, then salt them well and set aside at room temperature for 30-45 minutes.
  2. 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.
  3. Heat the oil slowly, over medium heat, to 350-360 degrees. If you are using olive oil, keep it at 340 degrees.
  4. Meanwhile, mix the flour and all the spices together in a bowl and coat the doves.
  5. 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.
  6. Let drain on a rack in an oven set to ‘warm.’
  7. 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.

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