A new, deliciously festive take on the traditional feast with pigeon and bubbly wines from Emma (chef) and John (sommelier) Gilchrist
Emma writes “I thought it would a good time to try a different kind of bird, so decided on Pigeon. Many people think it will be hard to cook or they won’t like it but, instead, it’s wonderfully tasty, especially when cooked pink. I also love the sweet, earthy, starchy flavour of winter root vegetables. The “on-trend” way to cook them is in a simple salt crust pastry, enhancing the sweetness and making them the star of the show. Celeriac, beetroot and orange or heritage carrots have such lovely vibrant colours. Swede, turnip and pumpkin varieties can be used too. To finish, here’s my favourite alternative Christmas dessert from the Lake District, the decadent, wonderfully sweet and sticky toffee pudding with caramel sauce.
Roast Pigeon with Roasted Roots
Sub head: For the pigeon
4 Garlic cloves, peeled
1 Whole garlic bulb, cut across in half
Handful fresh rosemary
1 Drizzle extra virgin olive oil
250ml Local red wine (Cabernet is great)
1 Pinch sea salt
1 Pinch freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 220°C. Season each pigeon cavity and push a garlic clove, a sprig of rosemary and a knob of butter inside. Place the pigeons close together, breast side up, in a high-sided roasting pan. Dot with the rest of the butter and rosemary. Drizzle with olive oil and pour in half the wine. Cover loosely with foil and roast for 10 mins, then reduce the oven to 180°C. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and discard the foil. Turn the birds over and add the rest of the wine, then roast for a further 20 mins, uncovered. Leave to rest in the pan for 10 mins before serving. Reduce the red wine jus in a small saucepan until it coats the back of a spoon. Check for seasoning and serve.
Salt baked root vegetables
550g Strong white bread flour, plus extra to dust
175g Fine sea salt, plus ½ tsp
3 Free-range egg whites
1kg-1.2kg Unpeeled assorted root vegetables
200 ml Cold water
Mix the flour and 175g salt in a large bowl. Add the egg whites and water and quickly mix to form a dough (if it’s too stiff, add a little extra water). Knead in the bowl for a minute or so, form a smooth ball, then flatten into a disc. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 mins. Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan. Roll the dough to about 1cm thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut the vegetables to the same size, place on the dough and use your hands to wrap the dough around, pressing the edges together to seal. Use a little water on the end of your finger as glue if necessary. Put the dough-wrapped veg on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake for 1 hr until the dough is hard and the veg inside are tender (test with a skewer).
Once cooked, slice open the salt crust and either discard the top or leave it on and serve on a platter as a centrepiece.
Sticky Toffee pudding with Caramel Sauce – deliciously festive!
50g Unsalted butter
175g Granulated sugar
175g Chopped, stoned dates
1 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
2 Free-range eggs
175g Self-raising flour (Farine Gateau)
½ tsp Pure vanilla essence
600ml Thick cream*
75g Demerara sugar
2tbs Black treacle
* Creme Entiere de Normandie (30% Matre Gras or more)
Boil the dates in the water until soft and add the bicarb of soda. Cream the butter and sugar, beat the eggs into the creamed mixture, fold in the flour, dates, liquid and vanilla essence. Pour into a deep greased cake tin or soufflé dish, or individual pudding basins, cover loosely with foil and bake for 40 to 45 mins at 180°C (less for individual puddings). To make the sauce boil the cream, sugar and treacle until you have a golden caramel sauce. When cooked, turn the pudding out, pour the sauce over and serve with vanilla ice cream.
John tells us “I’m not a great fan of fizz but I do like Crémant and there are many great Crémant de Bordeaux on our doorstep for something deliciously festive. Crémant It is often less fizzy, creamy in texture and is a delicious, affordable alternative to Champagne. Here are the ones we’ll be opening during the festivities.”
In Saint Caprais de Blaye in the North of the Gironde, Vignoble Rageunot makes the very elegant Crémant de Bordeaux Phillipe Rageunot. 100% Semillon, a golden yellow colour, very fine bubbles with stoned-fruit flavours and brioche, with a delicate creamy finish. 9€.
Jaillance produces Crémant in many wine regions in France and their many different fizz can be sampled in Peujard. The stand out one is the limited edition Cuvée Icône Blancs de Noir made with 100% Cabernet Franc. Very fruit-driven with flavours of strawberries, raspberries and creamy custard. 12€.
Near Langon in southern Gironde, Domaines Tich & Grava makes the perfect festive wine, a beautiful rosé Cuvée 1854, 100% Cabernet Franc. Bright, lively red fruit flavours, toasted almonds and peach with a lovely lemony zing. 10€.
Emma and John Gilchrist have been running their gîte and cookery school, Les Caulins, in Lot-et-Garonne since March 2016. Emma has worked with great chefs in some of the best restaurants around the world and John, a former UK Sommelier of the Year and winner of the Mondavi award for the best wine list in the world, is an enthusiast for the smaller wine producers.
Emma and John Gilchrist
First published in the Dec/Jan 2020/21 issue of The Local Buzz
Images: Emma and John Gilchrist and Shutterstock