Pigeon soup inspired by cuneiform tablets from ancient Mesopotamia. It's a good primer on how to make soup out of a pigeon. Serves 4 as an entrée
Course: Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine: Egyptian, Sumerian
4Whole pigeonsplucked or skinned
½teaspoonfreshly ground cumin seedplus more to taste
1teaspoonfreshly ground corianderplus more to taste
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepperto taste
Alliums (just use as much variety as you can)
8ozleektender parts only, diced ½ inch
1ozwild onion greens or chives (1/2 cup) divided
4ozscallions, green garlic, or young onions (2 bunches) sliced into 1/4 inch rounds, divided
1tablespooncrushed dried ramp leavesoptional, do not substitute garlic powder
2Tablespoonminced garlic3-4 large cloves
1/2 cuphulled barley, toasted for 15-20 minutes at 325 F or until golden or 1.5 cups cooked
5cupschicken stock or water
2tablespoonslard or cooking oil
1cuplight tasting beera little bitterness is ok, but avoid strong IPAs etc
½cupmild tasting beerdon’t use a fancy one
Extra virgin olive oilfor serving (optional)
Dash of vinegarpreferably homemade, like apple cider or beer vinegar
Fresh chopped cilantro, for finishing optional
Plucking the pigeons is optional, but allows you to brown them deeper than if they’re skinned.*
Pluck the pigeons, but avoid the head, feet and wing tips—it’s a pain. If you want, peel the heads and add them to the broth.
Use a poultry shears to remove the back bone, then extract the offal and discard everything but the liver and heart. Chop the liver and heart fine and reserve. Season the pigeons liberally with salt, cumin, coriander and reserve. Refrigerate the pigeons overnight.
Brown the pigeons
In a gallon-sized pot, heat the lard and add the pigeons, cooking on medium heat, turning occasionally, until they start to give up their juice and a crust begins to form on the bottom of the pan. After 20 minutes deglaze with the beer.
Build the soup
Add the water, garlic, ramps if using and leeks, along with half the onion greens and scallions, bring to a simmer and cook for 1.5-2 hours, or until the bones move freely from the joints. Skim impurities and fat here and there as it cooks. Cool the broth to room temperature, then remove the pigeons, pick the meat and coarsely chop. Discard the skin and bones.
Meanwhile, cook the barley in 4x it's volume of water, then rinse with cold water to remove excess starch which will cloud the broth and reserve.
Heat the broth and add the cilantro, scallions, reserved wild onion greens along with the pigeon meat and offal, heat through, double check the seasoning, adjust as needed until it tastes good, paying special attention to the flavor of coriander, which should be more forward than the cumin.
Finish with a dash of vinegar to taste and a drizzle of nice olive oil, preferably Middle Eastern (Palestinian oils are nice)
*Use skinned pigeons if it’s easier here, especially since you’ll be discarding the skin. Just be careful not to brown them to hard since it could dry the meat out.
*You can streamline this by adding the barley to the finished broth and allowing it to cook while you pick the meat from the pigeons, although the broth will be less clear.