Atul Kochhar’s Pigeon Breasts With Sweet Rhubarb Pickle

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Rhubarb is always an interesting ingredient to cook with – and is so versatile for both sweet and savoury dishes. The rhubarb pickle is the perfect companion for the pan-fried pigeon breasts flavoured with Atul’s own blend of garam masala.

Ingredients
For the pigeon:
4 tablespoons sunflower oil, plus extra for deep-frying
8 pigeon breasts, skin on and patted dry
1 1/2 tablespoons see method for ingredients
15g butter
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
baby watercress leaves, to garnish

For the sweet rhubarb pickle:
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 tablespoon panch phoron
2cm piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
1 onion, finely chopped
500g dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
100ml cider vinegar
500g rhubarb stalks, peeled and thinly sliced, (save the peels for deep-frying)
75g sultanas
50g peeled and cored apples, diced
2 tablespoons grenadine, (optional for colour)

For a rhubarb and chicory salad:
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons sunflower oil
1 head chicory, leaves separated
1 rhubarb stalk, peeled and thinly sliced, ideally with a mandolin
celery leaves
pea shoots
pomegranate seeds

Method
1 Make the rhubarb pickle at least 1 week in advance for the flavours to combine. Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the panch phoron and ginger and sauté over a medium heat until the seeds crackle. Add the onion and sauté for 3–5 minutes until it is translucent, then stir in the brown sugar and ground spices.
2 Add the remaining ingredients, stirring over a low heat to dissolve the sugar, then simmer for 15–20 minutes until the mixture is thickened. Stir often so it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan.
3 Remove the pan from the heat and leave the pickle to cool completely. Transfer to hot, dry sterilized jars with vinegar-proof lids. Seal immediately and store in a cool place for at least 1 week. Once opened, store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.
4 If you want to serve the salad as a side dish, assemble it as close as possible to serving. Mix the orange juice and sunflower oil together in a large non-metallic bowl with salt and pepper to taste. Add the chicory, rhubarb, celery leaves, pea shoots and pomegranate seeds, and toss together.
5 Just before cooking the pigeon breasts, heat enough oil for deep-frying to 190°C. Add the rhubarb peels and deep-fry for 1 minute, or until crisp but still retaining the vibrant ruby colour. Drain on kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil.
6 Heat the sunflower oil in a large frying pan. Add the pigeon breasts, skin side down, and fry for 1½ minutes. Turn them over and fry for a further 30 seconds. Sprinkle the breasts with 1 tablespoon of garam masala, add the butter to the pan and fry for a further minute, basting with the pan juices, or until the breasts are springy to the touch.
7 Leave to rest for 3 minutes, covered with foil. Season with salt to taste.
8 Meanwhile, reheat the gravy with the remaining garam masala and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.
9 Serve the pigeon breasts with the sweet rhubarb pickle and the gravy. Garnish and serve immediately.

Recipe courtesy of Atul Kochha from Benares.

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