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Turkish Roast Pigeon with Bulgur

turkish roast pigeon recipe

No one cooks pigeons the way the Muslims do. Period. From Morocco to Persia, the Islamic world loves its pigeon — squab is just a young, domestically raised pigeon.

This recipe is inspired by the Hamam Mahshi bil Bughul recipe in Claudia Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, which has lots of pigeon recipes. I made the Turkish version; the original is from Egypt, where raising pigeons is an art.

I use wild pigeons, which are not as tender as squab but which have far more flavor. Seasons on them are liberal — there is none in California — and if you shoot barn pigeons fat on grain, they are wholesome and delicious. I don’t recommend eating city pigeons.

The key to cooking with wild pigeons is to brine them for 6-12 hours first. This keeps them from drying out in the cooking process, just like a turkey. I use a solution of 1/4 cup kosher salt to 4 cups water.

The stuffing can be made in advance, but everything should be eaten hot in the end. To drink I’d recommend a medium-bodied red wine, or, to be Turkish, some raki.

Serves 2.

  • 2 pigeons, whole and plucked
  • 3 cups game bird or chicken stock
  • 1 cup bulgur wheat
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 minced onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons butter or oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped mint
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 celery sticks
  • Juice of a lemon
  1. Brine your pigeons in the salt solution I refer to above for 6-12 hours in the fridge.
  2. Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a pot, then add the cinnamon, cardamom, about 1 teaspoon of salt and the allspice. Add the bulgur, cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes, or until the wheat absorbs the liquid.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat and fry the onions and walnuts, stirring often, until they begin to color. Turn off the heat.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  5. When the bulgur is done, add it to the onion-walnut mixture and stir to combine. Let it cool for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to release the heat. When it is cool, add the mint and a little lemon juice and mix well. Stuff each bird with some of the mixture, but not too much, as it will expand a bit. Leave the remaining bulgur in the pan.
  6. In another, oven-proof pan (cast iron is ideal), lay the pigeons breast side down. Use the celery sticks as props to keep them in place. Roast this way for 25 minutes.
  7. Turn the birds over and roast for another 10 minutes, then turn the heat to 500 degrees and roast for a final 10 minutes — this is to brown and crisp the breast meat. Remove and let the pigeons rest for 5-10 minutes. Heat up the bulgur mixture in the pan over low heat. Serve the pigeons on a bed of bulgur, top with a little lemon juice and some fleur de sel, if you have any.

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5 responses to “Turkish Roast Pigeon with Bulgur”

  1. Nights of Revolution | Gingersnaps

    […] food here has me craving those flavor profiles, so I went to work. I started with the basics of  this recipe, added some stuff from this recipe, and winged the rest of […]

  2. Naz

    Hi, You have the cardamom listed in the ingredients but not anywhere in the method? Also, could I use these flavours with chicken? and if so what temperature and for how long per kilo? Cheers

  3. Christy

    If I were to use this recipe for dove, should I reduce the cooking time? How long should they cook breast side down then breast side up at 500 degrees? I don’t want to over cook or burn them.


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