The festive table this year was graced by what you might have heard described on some cheffy programme or another as Deconstructed Three-Brid Roast, or perhaps Bird Three Ways. A combination of indecision and family foibles saw no agreement being reached for xmas dinner, other than fish fingers but we’ll leave them aside for the moment.
Consequently three separate poultry or game dishes gave a sample from which surely everyone could find something enjoyable. A parcel of quail, partridge and wood-pigeon breasts duly arrived from Burnside Farm Foods. Starve we would not.
By far the most successful was Braised Quail with apricots, currants & tamarind. No surprise to find that one from Yotam Ottolenghi, and it his from his Jerusalem that the picture is copied.
The essential ingredients are:
4 extra-large quails, cut in half along breastbone and back (which is pretty much how they come from our friends at Burnside); 3/4 tsp dried chilli flakes; 3/4 tsp ground cumin; 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed; 1 tbsp olive oil (or Scottish rapeseed oil); 75ml white wine; 80g dried apricots, thickly sliced; 25g currants; 1.5 tbsp caster sugar; 1.5 tbsp tamarind paste; 2tbsp lemon juice; 1 tsp picked thyme leaves; salt & black pepper; 2bsp chopped mixed corainader and flat-leaf parsley, to garnish.
Anyone planning well for dinner may have read the recipe in advance and had the birds marinating in the fridge overnight. But you’ll get away with a couple of hours whilst The Urchins are knee-deep in gift wrap, ignoring new clothes, looking for batteries or whatever.
Wipe the quails with kitchen paper and place in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle with the chilli flakes, cumin, fennel seeds, half tsp salt and a good dose of black pepper. Massage well with your hands, cover and leave to marinate, for at least two hours.
Heat the oil in a frying pan large enough to take the birds snugly and for which you have a lid. Brown the birds on all sides, for about 5 minutes, till a nice golden-brown colour.
Remove the quails from the pan and discard most of the fat, leaving about half a tablespoon. Add 300ml of water, the wine, apricots, currants, sugar, tamarind, lemon juice, thyme, more salt and pepper. Return the quails to the pan. They should be 3/4 covered in liquid; if not, add more water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer very gently for 20-25 mins, turning the birds over once or twice, until just cooked.
Lift the quails from the pan and onto a serving platter and keep warm. If the liquid isn’t very thick, return it to a medium heat and simmer for a few minutes to reduce to a good sauce consistency. Spoon the sauce over the quails and garnish with the coriander and parsley.
Definitely do that one again, and not just at Christmas.