To try Maggie's recipe for Cairo-style grilled stuffed pigeon, click here.
I was told there was a great place for hamam mahshi (stuffed pigeon) somewhere on Falki Street in downtown Cairo, so off I went to find it. I was curious to see what was made with the pigeons one sees everywhere in Egypt: Not your usual urban vermin, these are handsome birds lovingly cared for in rooftop dovecotes.
And indeed: From two blocks away I could follow the trail of savory smoke directly to the Gomhoria Restaurant's grill.
Restaurants that only serve one thing almost always do it well. Gomhoria is no exception. You sit at one of the marble tables and a spread of small dishes immediately appears: a plate of tahini, tomato salad, extraordinarily delicious pickles. Moments later, the cheerful waiter presents you with one stuffed pigeon per person, along with a mug of spiced broth. There is no menu, and although you can also order a grilled kebab, that is clearly not what this place is about. All around you families cheerfully dig into their pigeons, picking tiny bones clean, one by one.
Now I confess I had never eaten a stuffed pigeon before, and didn't really know how to proceed. Its little pigeon head looking at me was sort of disconcerting, as were its little pigeon legs, daintily crossed to hold in the stuffing. Watching my fellow diners' technique out of the corner of my eye, I slit the pigeon open. The meat was flaky and tender, and sweet-smelling spiced freekeh poured out.