It's a bird that can be cooked in a number of ways, some of which can be dauntingly complicated. Roasting a squab – or any bird, for that matter – will best preserve the essence of its flavour, while spit roasting is especially effective as the rotation keeps the juices circulating throughout the flesh while cooking. You can protect the breast meat by covering it in a slice of lard or streaky bacon, which will help prevent the meat from drying out during the roasting process.
In this week's dish the breasts are removed before cooking then wrapped in a pig's caul, which is a lace-like fatty membrane lining the stomach cavity of the animal. Rather than throwing them away, the carcass of the squab is chopped, roasted and used to make a rich sauce.
One piece of specialist equipment you'll need is a deep-fat fryer for the leg bonbons. It'll take time to prepare this dish, so keep it for a special occasion. Trust me: the end result will be worth the effort.
ROAST SQUAB PIGEON BREASTS WITH CRISPY LEG BONBONS, CELERIAC PUREE AND CASSIS JUS
1 small celeriac
150ml double cream
50g unsalted butter
Trim the celeriac, cut it into large, even pieces then cook it in boiling salted water until tender. Drain the water off, place the pan back over the heat to steam off excess moisture, add the cream and simmer until reduced by half. Puree the creamy celeriac in a liquidiser, stir in the butter and check the seasoning. When smooth, remove the puree from the blender and set aside.
MUSHROOM AND CHICKEN FARCE (FOR THE LEG BONBONS)
200g white button mushrooms
1tsp finely chopped shallot
Half a clove of garlic, peeled and very finely chopped
15g unsalted butter
5tbsp double cream
50g chicken breast, cold
Cut the mushrooms into 5mm dice and fry them in the butter with the shallot and garlic. Add the double cream to the mushrooms and cook quickly until slightly thickened, then remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool.
Place the chicken breast in a food processor and blend until smooth, then transfer to a chilled bowl and mix in the cooled mushrooms. Adjust the seasoning if necessary then cover with clingfilm and refrigerate until ready to use.
6 whole squab legs
1tsp vegetable oil
A knob of butter
A splash of Armagnac
1 egg, beaten
2tbsp plain flour
6tbsp panko breadcrumbs
Remove the legs from the squab pigeons. Pull away and discard the skin from each leg to reveal the meat. Use a small, sharp knife to cut the leg and thigh meat away from the bones then cut the meat into small, even pieces and set aside.
Place a pan of water on the stove and bring it to the boil. Take each leg bone and pull them apart where they are joined at the knuckle. Place the bones into the boiling water and cook for 10 minutes.
Strain the bones and rub them in kitchen towel to remove any cooked meat. You should be left with 12 clean pigeon bones.
Heat a small nonstick saute pan over a high heat. When hot, add the oil, and when it starts to smoke add the chopped meat, butter and a pinch of salt. Saute for 30 seconds then add the Armagnac (the pan should be hot enough to cook the Armagnac off). Remove the cooked meat from the pan and place in a clean bowl, then add the cold mushroom and chicken farce and mix well.
Lay out a sheet of clingfilm measuring 30 x 30cm. Place 4tsp of the mixture on to the clingfilm and cut the film into four sections. Gather the clingfilm around each of the spoonfuls and wrap them into four even balls. Repeat the process until you have at least eight bonbons, then place them in the freezer to set.
Set up your egg wash, flour and breadcrumbs in separate dishes. Once they've set, remove the bonbons from the clingfilm and roll them individually first in the flour, then the egg and finally the breadcrumbs. Refrigerate until ready to cook.
4 x 450g whole squab pigeons
200g pork caul
Remove the wishbone from each squab then use a small, sharp knife to remove the breast meat from the carcass. Set the carcasses aside for now.
Cut away the wing bone from each breast and add the bones to the carcasses, carefully pulling away the skin from the breast meat.
Lay the breasts skin side down on a clean work surface. Take a small pinch of salt and evenly sprinkle it over four of the breasts. Find the matching opposite breast to create a parcel and place it on top so the skin side faces outwards on both sides.
Lay a 25sq cm piece of the pork caul out on the work surface. Place the pigeon breast parcel on the caul near one edge then gently roll it up, tucking in the sides to create a firm, neat package.
Lay out a sheet of cling film measuring 30cm x 30cm and roll the breasts in the clingfilm, making sure it's firm, then tie the ends to create an airtight casing. Refrigerate the breasts until ready to cook.
4 squab pigeon carcasses
3-4tbsp vegetable oil
1tsp unsalted butter
1 small carrot, peeled and cut into small dice
Half a stick of celery, cut into small dice
1 shallot, peeled and cut into small dice
100ml dry white wine
1 clove of garlic, peeled and sliced
2 juniper berries
200ml fresh chicken stock
150ml fresh veal stock
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1tbsp cassis liqueur
Chop the carcasses into 3cm pieces. Heat a large, heavy-based saute pan over a high heat and add the oil then the chopped carcasses, sauteeing until golden brown. Remove the carcasses from the pan and drain off the excess oil.
Turn the heat down low, then add the butter to the same pan along with the chopped vegetables and saute for 3-4 minutes until light golden brown.
Add the wine and reduce it to a glaze, then add the madeira and repeat. Add the carcasses to the pan along with the garlic, juniper berries and both stocks. Bring the stock to a boil and leave to boil rapidly for 15-20 minutes or until reduced by two-thirds.
Remove the pan from the heat, add the thyme and the cassis then allow the sauce to infuse and rest. After 20 minutes strain the sauce through a fine sieve. Discard the carcasses and vegetables and set the sauce aside.
COOKING AND SERVING
Preheat a tabletop steamer and set the deep-fat fryer to 180C. Cook the squab parcels in the steamer for 10 minutes, then remove and leave to rest in a warm place for 10 minutes.
Warm a small, nonstick saute pan with 1tbsp vegetable oil. Remove the squab parcels from the clingfilm and dry them in kitchen paper. Individually season the parcels with salt, then place them in the hot pan and colour evenly on all sides until golden brown. Meanwhile, gently reheat the celeriac puree.
Deep-fry eight bonbons for 2 minutes or until golden brown, then transfer on to a sheet of kitchen paper and season with a little salt. Make a small hole in each bonbon then insert a leg bone into it.
After heating the cassis jus, arrange the pigeon parcels on warm plates and serve with two crispy bonbons, a little sauce and a portion of the warm celeriac puree.
Margaux, Chateaux des Trois Chardons, 2004, Bordeaux (Raeburn Fine Wines, £24.99)
A soft, silky blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot with flavours of violet and blackcurrant.
The Honours, 58a North Castle Street, Edinburgh. Visit www.thehonours.co.uk or call 0131 220 2513.