Pigeon Breast with Sour Cherry Sauce and Poppy Seed Crumbs

Sour cherries and poppy seeds are a traditional pairing and work really great together. Usually, you can find this combination in the form of crépes, muffins or cakes – so in most cases, they are served as dessert. Since I love to include fruits in savory dishes, I was thinking about a way of using sour cherries and poppy seeds in a more salty environment. Cherry sauce is a classic pairing for duck breasts, so I thought it might work with pigeon breasts as well. Additionally, I enhanced the plate with a few more ingredients that pair similarly well with sour cherries, which took the resulting dish into a very exciting Asian direction.

Pigeon Breast with Sour Cherry Sauce, Poppy Seed Crumbs and Sweet Potato Puree

I used sweet potato both due to its sweetness and its Asian connection – since in Beijing coal baked sweet potatoes were sold on almost every corner. Instead of a baked mash, I served the sweet potato as a smooth puree flavored with lemongrass and fresh ginger. For the cherries I used freshly ground coriander seeds and Sichuan pepper, which gave the sauce an incredibly wonderful perfume. A few random drops of toasted sesame oil and some tiny Thai basil leaves gave the final touch and perfected the Asian twist.

Pigeon Breast with Sour Cherry Sauce and Poppy Seed Crumbs

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 4 portions


  • 4 pigeon breasts
  • 1 sweet potato (about 300g)
  • 1 fresh lemongrass
  • 0.5 cm thin slice fresh ginger
  • 25 g + 1.5 tsp butter
  • 2 drops chili oil
  • 50 g plain flour
  • 25 g freshly ground poppy seeds
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • handful fresh sour cherries
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 cl dry vermouth (Noilly Prat)
  • 0.5 tsp coriander seeds
  • 0.5 tsp Sichuan pepper
  • 30 tiny Thai basil leaves
  • few drops toasted sesame oil
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • salt
  • oil


For the poppy seed crumbs
Sift the flour and mix with 25g soft butter, 0.5 tsp salt, 1 tbsp sugar and 25g freshly ground poppy seeds. Add a little water and knead until a dough forms. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200°C / 390 F. Flatten the poppy seed dough and cut into strips. Transfer to a baking tray covered with parchment paper. Bake until crispy. Turn once during baking. Don't allow the crumbs to get too much color. After baking is finished, remove from the oven and chill to room temperature. Brake into crumbs and reserve.
For the sweet potato puree
Wash, peel and grate the sweet potato. Crush the lemongrass with the back of a heavy knife and along with the ginger to the grated sweet potato. add 2 pinches salt and mix well. Leave for 30 minutes.
Add enough water to cover the sweet potato and cook over low heat until very tender. Strain and reserve the liquid. Discard the ginger and lemongrass. Add 1.5tsp butter to the cooked sweet potato and blend into a fine puree. Add some cooking liquid to get a smoother result. Season with 2 drops chili oil and salt. Press through a fine sieve to remove any remaining lemongrass solids. Keep warm over low heat stirring regularly.
For the pigeon breast and the cherry sauce
Wash and pit the cherries. Cut in half and reserve.
Preheat the oven to 80°C / 175 F and put a plate on the grid.
Wash the pigeon breasts with cold water and tap dry using kitchen paper. Trim off the inner filet and use for another purpose. Add 1 tbsp neutral oil to a very hot pan and roast the breasts with their skin side down. Season with salt and pepper and roast the breasts from the other side as well. Transfer the breasts with their skin side up to the plate in the oven and warm for about 10 minutes.
Caramelize 1 tbsp brown sugar in the empty pan and add the sour cherries. Add some dry vermouth and season with salt, freshly ground coriander seeds and freshly ground Sichuan pepper. When the sauce has thickened, remove from the heat. If the sauce is too thick, add some water.
To serve
Put about 6tsp sweet potato puree on warm plates. Cut the pigeon breasts in half lengthwise and arrange next or on the puree. Add some cherries and pour over a few teaspoons from the sauce. Sprinkle with the reserved poppy seed crumbs and Thai basil leaves. Add a few drops toasted sesame oil randomly.

2 thoughts on “Pigeon Breast with Sour Cherry Sauce and Poppy Seed Crumbs

  1. Angelika

    Robert, einfach genial! Und der Clou sind die “Poppy Seed Crumbs”. Das Gericht sieht jetzt ziemlich nach einer österreichisch-ungarischen Adaption aus, nicht wahr 😉 – mit asiatischem Touch. Ich werde diese “Poppy Seed Mehlspeise” vielleicht mit Karpfenfilet probieren….
    Auch ich liebe diese Combos mit Twist und Augenzwinkern, und vor allem süße und salzige Aromen zu vereinen!

    Wünsche Dir einen schönen Tag, frühmorgendliche Grüße aus einer Wiener Küche….

  2. Robert Post author

    Danke, freut mich, dass Dir das Rezept gefällt! Hm, was soll denn hierbei österreichisch sein? 😉 Also der Teig für die Mohnkrümel geht ja in Richtung Keks bzw. Quark-Öl-Grissini-Teig, allerdings hab ich den Quark weggelassen, wodurch das Ergebnis bröseliger wurde. Mohn ist sehr beliebt in Ungarn, man ist es auch einfach nur mit Nudeln und Puderzucker. Und Sauerkirschen (Weichsel) sind wesentlich mehr präsent, als hier in Franken z.B. wo man eigtl. nur von süßen Kirchen erschlagen wird. Der asiatische Touch wirkte sehr dezent, dafür jedoch in jedem Element aufs Neue überraschend.

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