About this recipe:In authentic Vietnamese parcels, the mixture would be wrapped in rice paper and then deep-fried. This recipe saves on the fat by poaching the pigeon mixture in a flavourful broth, and then wrapping the parcels in lettuce leaves – Little Gem or round lettuce – with fresh herbs. The result is very attractive and fun to eat.
225 g (8 oz) skinless boneless pigeon breasts, roughly chopped
1 small carrot, coarsely grated
55 g (2 oz) shiitake mushrooms, chopped
2 spring onions, roughly chopped
30 g (1 oz) rice noodles, soaked in hot water for 5 minutes and drained well
salt and pepper
600 ml (1 pint) chicken stock, preferably home-made
5 cm (2 in) piece lemongrass, split open
1 small fresh red chilli, split open and seeded
4 fresh or dried lime leaves, lightly crushed
2.5 cm (1 in) piece fresh root ginger, sliced
a few fresh coriander stalks
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 small fresh red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
1 tsp finely chopped fresh root ginger
2 tbsp lime juice
4 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp caster sugar
16 lettuce leaves, all about the same size
25 g (scant 1 oz) fresh coriander leaves
25 g (scant 1 oz) fresh mint leaves
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Method Prep:20min › Cook:20min › Ready in:40min
To make the pigeon rolls, put all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until they are finely chopped, but not puréed, and start to bind together. Turn the mixture out onto a work surface and shape into a roll. Divide into 16 equal portions. Form each into a small rugby-ball shape. Set the pigeon rolls aside on a plate.
Put all the ingredients for the poaching stock in a medium-sized pan. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Spoon in 8 of the pigeon rolls and simmer for 6–7 minutes, turning them every so often with a spoon. Remove them with a draining spoon and put them in a serving dish. Keep warm. Add the rest of the pigeon rolls to the pan and simmer as before.
Meanwhile, mix together all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Arrange the lettuce leaves on a platter. Put some of the coriander and mint leaves inside each lettuce leaf; garnish the platter with the remaining herbs. Serve the platter of leaves and the bowl of sauce with the warm pigeon rolls.
To eat the parcels, take a lettuce leaf, fit a pigeon roll inside and roll up, then dip the parcel into the sauce and enjoy. Alternatively, the sauce can be spooned over the pigeon roll before rolling up, if preferred.
Some more ideas
Spice up the pigeon mixture with 1 fresh red chilli, seeded, if you like. Chillies are an important flavouring in Vietnamese and Thai cooking. Used raw, chillies are an excellent source of vitamin C, although you'd need to eat a lot to gain much benefit. * If you can't get fresh shiitake mushrooms, use 15 g (½ oz) dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated following the instructions on the packet. Or substitute fresh chestnut or button mushrooms. * Instead of the pigeon, use 170 g (6 oz) skinless boneless chicken breast and 85 g (3 oz) cooked tiger prawns or crabmeat. Add 1 tbsp each finely chopped lemongrass (the tender, inner part) and fresh root ginger to the rolls for extra flavour. * If you don't have fish sauce, soy sauce would do. The thinly pared zest of 1 lime can replace the lime leaves.
Pigeon offers first-class protein with only a moderate fat content. It is an excellent source of iron and a useful source of zinc. Zinc is vital for normal growth, reproduction and immunity. Pigeon also offers good quantities of vitamin B6, which helps to release energy from proteins. * Each portion of this dish provides over 100% of the recommended daily intake of iron for men. Women have a slightly higher iron requirement than men, but this dish still provides 75% of it. * Rice noodles are gluten-free and wheat-free, making them useful for people with gluten or wheat allergies or intolerance.