Crisp Egyptian pigeon with coriander salt

Crisp Egyptian pigeon with coriander salt

New Middle Eastern Food
Mark Roper

The Chinese are true masters of cooking birds such as pigeon and duck. While I was cooking in Hong Kong in the 1980s I learnt the trick of rubbing salt into the birds’ skins the day before cooking, so that it permeates the skin and helps make the final result even more fragrant and crisp.

The poaching stock used for the pigeon in this recipe is a real joy — deliciously aromatic and a glorious golden colour, it can be strained, frozen and reused almost indefinitely.


Quantity Ingredient
4 size 5 (or larger) pigeons
2 tablespoons Fragrant salt
280ml vegetable oil, for frying
Shredded carrot salad, to serve
soft-herb salad, to serve
or Toum, to serve

Poaching stock

Quantity Ingredient
2 large onions, quartered
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 sticks celery, diced
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cinnamon stick
15 saffron threads
1 red bullet chilli, split
3 pods cardamom, cracked
1 small bunch coriander, including stems
5 tablespoons honey
3 litres stock or water
3/4 teaspoon sea salt


  1. Use a heavy knife to trim away the claws and wing tips of the pigeons. Pull away any feathers that are still clinging to the skin. Rub half the fragrant salt into the pigeons, making sure you get into every little crack and crevice. Cover the birds and refrigerate them for at least 24 hours.
  2. To make the poaching stock, put the onions and garlic into a saucepan with the celery, cinnamon powder and stick, saffron, chilli, cardamom, coriander and honey. Pour on the stock or water, bring it to the boil and reduce by a third. Now add the pigeon and salt and return to the boil. Cover the pan and lower the heat, then simmer gently for 20 minutes. When testing to see if the meat is tender, pierce the leg rather than the breast. If there is a little resistance and the juices are a faint pink, then the birds are done.
  3. When the pigeons are cooked, remove them from the poaching stock and allow them to steam dry in the open air for 60 minutes, or even better, overnight.
  4. Dust the birds with the remaining fragrant salt. Heat the oil until moderately hot in a wok and cook the pigeons, no more than two at a time, turning them around in the oil as they colour. After about 5 minutes they should have turned a glossy mahogany. Remove the birds from the oil and sit them on paper towel for a couple of minutes to drain off excess oil. Serve one bird per person as a main meal, with more fragrant salt for dipping.
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