This recipe produces a deeply flavorful dish with Mediterranean accents. If pigeon is not available where you live, ask for squab (another name for a pigeon), or substitute another small bird. Another possibility would be to substitute a Cornish game hen, but in this case double the cooking time as they are larger.
How many birds to buy depends both on the number of people at your table and their appetites. One pigeon per person makes a nice meal at suppertime. For lunch or lighter eaters, one pigeon will feed two people. The recipe below is for two birds, and you can multiply or divide the ingredients as necessary.
Have the butcher split the bird or birds in half through the breast bone. The rest is very easy. Be sure to start more than an hour before you plan to bring the birds to the table in order to leave time for them to marinate.
2 pigeons or squab, about 1-1/4 pounds (55o grams) each
4 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
freshly ground black pepper
Check the birds to ensure that all the feathers have been plucked. If the birds are whole, cut them in half through the breast bone.
In a bowl, mix together the olive oil, cumin and garlic to make a marinade. Grind in some black pepper. Place the birds in the bowl and coat with the marinade on all sides. Allow to sit at room temperature for about an hour.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 7 (425 F, 210 C). Oil a baking dish, preferably ceramic or glass.
When the oven is very hot, place the birds in the baking dish, skin side up. Place in the oven to roast.
Check the birds after 15 minutes by inserting a fork. If the juice runs pink, the birds are medium rare, which is how they are served in France. If the juice is red, the birds are too rare and need to roast for another 5 minutes. If you prefer your birds well done, roast until the juice runs clear, checking every 5 minutes.
Salt the birds only when they are ready to come out of the oven.
Serve the birds with assorted seasonal veggies (for example, a medley of braised asparagus, peas and young onions, as shown in the photo). Wild rice would also be lovely. Serve straight out of the oven, accompanied by a sturdy red wine.