4 pigeons (inside sinew removed, washed well, rinsed, drained)
1.25 cups whole grain wheat (fereek), washed, rinsed, drained
1 onion (finely chopped)
100 ml whole milk
Butter + oil
Butter + oil (extra for frying)
Salt + pepper + ground cinnamon + 7 spices
2 bay leaves + 4 cardamom pods + 1 tiny piece wooden cinnamon stick
Salt + pepper
Wash fereek under running tap water, until water is clear. Soak in tap water for an hour. Rinse several times and drain well. In a medium-sized cooking pan; melt butter over medium heat. Add oil. Add onion. Stir until translucent. Add salt, pepper, ground cinnamon and seven spices. Stir until fragrant. Add drained wheat. Stir fry until it is dried up from moist and shiny in butter and oil. When a swooshing sound is heard, put off the heat, cover and leave in the pan heat, until completely cooled off. Meanwhile, prepare pigeons for stuffing: With the tap water pouring in a thin stream inside the neck opening of pigeon, pushing the edge of the crop towards the wide belly opening downwards; reach up to it and pull down gently; with your thumb and forefinger, then discard. Wash, rinse and drain pigeons; hanging them around the edge of a strainer, from under the wings, with the body inside the strainer; in an upright position; in order to drain down any excessive waters. Rub them inside-out with salt and pepper. Truss short part of wings towards the back; by twisting it slightly downwards; to align on the back skin. Start stuffing each pigeon with the cooled off wheat; by pushing amounts upwards from the belly opening towards the head; through the wide opening; until crop is full, then stuff the opening itself with enough wheat to fill it; leaving some space to block the opening with the giblets of each pigeon. Truss legs crossed and tie with a piece of thread. Repeat stuffing all pigeons. Add water and a whole peeled onion to a large cooking pan. When brought to the boil, gently add pigeons to the water. Froth will soon come out on the surface; to be collected. When no more froth appears; add salt, pepper, bay leaves, cardamom and wooden cinnamon stick. Lower heat to medium, cover and simmer until pigeons are cooked. Remove with a slotted ladle or spatula, onto a deep bowl aside. Cover until pigeons are slightly cooled off. Pour milk over pigeons, to smear them well all over. Add extra butter and oil to skillet. When heated, gently add pigeons to fry. Do not brown. Remove when skin is golden on all sides. Arrange onto a serving dish and serve.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 7 April, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.