4 oven-ready wood pigeons, with the wishbones removed
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
4 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
4 rosemary sprigs
4 thyme sprigs
100g butter, plus an extra knob for finishing
200ml full-bodied red wine
50ml port or kirsch
350ml game stock or chicken stock
200g cherries, stoned
300g wilted spinach, hot, to serve
1. Preheat the oven to 200C Fan/220C/gas mark 7. Season the pigeons all over and in the cavities with salt and pepper, then divide the garlic, rosemary and thyme among the cavities. Truss the legs together with kitchen string.
2. Heat 2 large well-seasoned, ovenproof sauté or frying pans over a medium-high heat, then add a good splash of olive oil. When it is hot, add the pigeons and colour all over for 3 minutes. Add the butter and when it is foaming, baste the birds.
3. Transfer the pans to the oven and roast the pigeons for 6 minutes, which should give you pink meat. Remove the pans from the oven, un-truss the birds and tip the juices from all the cavities into one of the pans, then set the birds aside to rest, covered with kitchen foil, while you finish the recipe.
4. Remove the excess fat from the pan, then return it to the heat. Add the wine and port, stirring to deglaze the pan, and boil until the liquid evaporates. Add the game stock and continue boiling to reduce it by half, then stir in the cherries. Reduce the heat and simmer until they are soft. Swirl in the knob of butter, then adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary.
5. Serve the roasted pigeons with cherry sauce and the wilted spinach alongside.