Recipe Inspiration – Walnut Risotto with Sous Vide Pigeon Breast

Walnut risotto with pigeon (19 of 20)This happens to me most weeks. I wonder what I’m going to cook for the Wife and myself on the weekend. I usually get my ideas by perving the windows of butcher shops and fishmongers.  I’ve even been asked to leave one butcher’s shop when I explained, in response to his “What can I get you?” that I was “just looking”. This approach works most of the time but, like any creative process one can’t time the arrival of ideas to coincide with the warming of the saucepans. A couple of weeks back, I had done my window gazing, I had thumbed the couple of yards of cookery books that live in my ‘blog room’ and even spent some time Googling everything from cheese sandwiches to filet mignon. Then I had a look through the Irish Food Bloggers page on Facebook. 

There it was. An innocent comment by the lovely Alice Goodwin (of Sauce Pots fame). Alice had topped a risotto with walnuts. That got me to thinking. Thinking led to a walnut risotto. Thinking about a walnut risotto got me thinking about what would go nicely with such a woodland dish. Pigeon seemed like a good idea. So, my train of thought led to  a pretty swanky sounding Walnut Risotto and Sous Vide Pigeon Breast.

The ingredients list for the risotto is similar to a plain one but with the addition of loads (and I mean loads) of walnuts.

Walnut risotto with pigeon (1 of 20)

Like I say, loads of walnuts…

Walnut Risotto and Sous Vide Pigeon Breast for two people

  • 200 grammes of risotto rice (arborio in this case)
  • 200 grammes of walnuts
  • 2 shallots
  • A few pieces of dried porcini mushrooms
  • A glass of white wine
  • A litre of good quality homemade chicken stock
  • A generous handful or two of parmesan cheese
  • Walnut oil for dressing
  • Some parsley for a bit of colour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 or 6 wild pigeon breasts

Pour some very hot water over the mushroom pieces to reconstitute. Slice the shallots up nice and small. Fry these gently in a little oil until they become translucent.

Walnut risotto with pigeon (4 of 20)

About half done. The shallots have a lovely aroma.

This will take a few minutes to do. While the shallots are sweating, prepare the walnuts. Take about 150 grammes of them and blitz them to a paste.

Walnut risotto with pigeon (5 of 20)

The walnuts will turn into a nice paste if you blitz them long enough.

Put all bar a few of the remaining walnuts into a bag and bash them gently with a rolling pin. This is to add some ‘mouth feel’ to your risotto. Keep the few to scatter on top.

Side note on ‘mouth feel’: This is one of the most descriptive and disgusting of marketing’s addition to the lexicon of cookery. I hate the expression. It brings thoughts of food perverts to mind. 

Add the rice and stir until it becomes coated with oil and feels a little gritty to stir.

Walnut risotto with pigeon (7 of 20)

The risotto will need your full attention from now.

Add the wine.

Walnut risotto with pigeon (11 of 20)

Put the rest of the wine in the fridge. It will be nice and cool when the risotto is cooked.

Stir this until the wine has almost completely absorbed into the rice. Add a ladle of warmed chicken stock.

Walnut risotto with pigeon (12 of 20)

Good stock makes good risotto. Great stock makes it great too.

Stir this until it has almost completely absorbed into the rice. Repeat the process a couple of times. Taste the rice. It will be about half cooked. Add the walnut paste and the bashed walnuts to the risotto.

Walnut risotto with pigeon (15 of 20)

This adds lovely colour, flavour and ARRRRGGGG! mouth feel.

The pigeon breasts take just 15 minutes at 55ºC in the sous vide. Season them. Add some thyme and a knob of butter. Vacuum seal them and pop them in the water bath.

Walnut risotto with pigeon (1 of 1)

The pigeon breasts have a really strong woodland flavour. Lovely!

Remove the mushroom pieces from the water. Add the water to your stock. This will add lovely flavour. Slice the mushrooms and add them to the risotto. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to add stock and stir until the risotto is cooked to your liking.

Walnut risotto with pigeon (13 of 20)

A bit more mouth feel for you. Great flavour too.

Grate your parmesan cheese. If you had bought the pre-grated muck, turn off the cooker and scrape the risotto into the bin. You are a disgrace.

Walnut risotto with pigeon (10 of 20)

Like I say, grate your own. You will be a greater grater if you do.

Sprinkle most of the cheese on top of the risotto. Turn off the heat. Add a few pools of walnut oil. Place a lid on the saucepan and let things blend a bit. While this is happening, take the pigeon breasts out of the sous vide and brown them in bitter on a hot pan. Stir the risotto to incorporate. Serve it with a nice powerful red wine. I was lucky enough to have a bottle of Phelan Segur hanging around. It didn’t hang for long.

Walnut risotto with pigeon (17 of 20)

Hopefully, the picture speaks for itself. Note – extra cheese to sprinkle.

I am really proud of this dish. The risotto was really fantastic with a fantastic meaty / nutty flavour. The pigeon breasts were delicious with it. All in all, an inspirational meal, even if the original inspiration came from Facebook. I encourage you to give it a try. The pigeon breast is optional as is the Phelan Segur. Optional but wonderful.



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Latest comments
  • Um, hate to say this Conor, but there are no walnuts in the ingredients list…. And I still can’t Like you, although of course I like you very much!

  • Love the idea of that risotto: definitely a new one for me . . . now I know that no hunting in this neck of the woods will get me pigeon breasts: why am I suddenly thinking of slices of almost rare liver? Hmmm? Panfried? [And you did pour a glass of the white for your left hand before the bottle went back into the fridge and you began stirring, didn’t you?]

  • That is one very classy dish. Love the idea of masses of walnuts in the risotto and pigeon is a great addition. I can’t ‘like’ you either, although like Kate, I do. It just says ‘loading’. But at least I’ve figured out how to leave a comment this time.

  • The thought of your walnut risotto has me thinking of fall. It sounds wonderful with the pigeon breast, something I’m sure I would have no luck at all finding here. My husband has ordered a sous vide machine…I told him he must look at all your wonderful recipes for inspiration. 🙂

  • Wonderful dish Conor, perfect for fall. The walnut risotto sounds delicious.

  • Hi Conor! I can honestly say I have never eaten pigeon before. The meat is surprisingly red… Interesting risotto with walnuts, must have great texture.

    p.s. You make me want to get a vacuum sealer…

  • So with you of the “pre-grated muck”! I could never understand people who use the stuff.
    The Like button is still not loading, but I love the dish! With all that wonderful walnut powder in it I’m sure the aroma was heavenly, and pairing it with pigeon breast is just brilliant. 🙂

  • Even if you don’t like the words “mouth-feel” in the cookery world, the phrase certainly lends itself nicely to this risotto! No likey-likey button for me either, but don’t worry about it further. You know we like you. AND…. drum roll please…. I ordered a sous vide immersion stick online yesterday. I went to five stores in town and only one store had one and it was $99 more than the online one. Although it would have been nice to have it in my hands already, I thought I could go another week or two without one since I’ve waited so long thus far. I looked up several of yours and Stefan’s pork sous vide recipes yesterday too and they all look great. I’m determined to cook my hubby a tender piece of pork! xo

  • Love this Conor, it’s a long time since I’ve eaten pigeon and I love the rich poultry flavour. I’m yet to find game birds in Brisbane but now there’s good reason to look harder. When I make porcini mushroom risotto I always add walnuts, some big chunks for crunchy texture ( I avoided the dreaded mouthfeel). It was an inspirational thought to add nutmeal as well to amp up the walnuttiness. I still have no comment or like area in the WP reader, OK I understand that your are self hosted now. The your post still appears there, but worse, no email notification this time to take me to your site. I’ve checked all my settings are in order

  • What, you were kicked out for looking! Hard core butcher. Loving the walnut risotto and it’s on my list of ‘to do’ when we return from our ‘European Tour’. (How very Merchant and Ivory I sound.) This showed in my WP feed, so that makes me happy. Don’t let it be said I am easily pleased.

  • I discovered smallholding dreams in my I-rambling, and am glad to have then discovered your site….. will not refer to mouthfeel, just intriguing food and enjoyable writing, thanks! Much appreciated. I have v. limited contact with things Irish, but between the book Whoredom in Kimmage and Dara O’Brien, I was headed in the right direction.
    Walnut risotto is in my future, among other things.

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