Someone, somewhere, had their tongue firmly in cheek when they named the kind of quail that we see available at the butchers as ‘jumbo quail’. They’re anything but jumbo, and very definitely best picked up with your fingers and eaten (gnawed) off the carcass – because knife and fork are far too wieldy.
The little fellas are particularly good spatchcocked and cooked on the grill or BBQ’d. This way, you’re able to get a charred, crispy skin, well before the the flesh has become overcooked.
Unfortunately, that knowledge is no use for people like me with no outdoor space, terrible extraction and outrageously sensitive fire alarms. Whilst roasting is another option, in the oven it’s harder to achieve the crisp skin, juicy flesh contrast – the bird is so lean and quick to cook, that there’s not enough time or natural fat to baste and brown it.
Lurpak are launching a bunch of snazzy products at the moment, including one called ‘Cooking Mist’. Part butter, part rapeseed oil, it’s the kind of spray on fat layer that you see the Yanks use on their cooking programmes.
To me the obvious use for such a thing is a quick and easy way of lining a baking tray or cake mould. But they insist it’s good for roasting too. Ordinarily, there’s not much a good lump of standard butter or drizzle of oil can’t help with, but (*lightbulb moment*) those lean quail sprang to mind as something that might actually benefit from a quick, mid roast spray of ‘mist’. Think of it as tanning oil for petit poultry.
There’s more than a hint of ectoplasmic residue to Cooking Mist. Check out these quail just before they went in the oven – reminiscent of Venkman getting slimed, no?
But, actually, it did a decent job and is certainly a quick and effective way of mid-roast basting lean ingredients.
Incidentally, Lurpak had sent over some cinnamon and chilli with the snazzy can. Both these things are good with quail, and they moved me to North African-ish flavourings: cinnamon sticks got stuffed into the cavity of my birds, and also prompted an overnight dry rub of cinnamon, ginger and chilli; the chillies inspired a harissa style sauce on the side. A parsley, mint and preserved lemon salad balanced the dish nicely. Job was a good’n.
There’s an image gallery below the recipe.
Cinnamon roast quail and harissa
For 48 quail 2 sticks cinnamon 2 tsp ground cinnamon 1 tsp ground ginger 1 tsp chilli powder 1/2 tsp ground black pepper Lurpak Cooking Mist 1 large red pepper 1 sweet red pepper 4 large, mild red chillis (split lengthways, seeds removed) 2 cloves garlic (unpeeled but squashed with the flat of a knife) 5 sprigs thyme 2 tbsp rapeseed oil 2 tbsp (60ml) olive oil 1.5 tbsp (40ml) lemon juice 1 tsp paprika 1/2 tsp ground cardamom 1/2 tsp ground cumin 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 1 tbsp tomato puree
Make the harissa first – you could do this two days before if you needed to. There’s a bit of forward thinking for the quail too.
Pre heat the oven to 180C. Cut the peppers in half, remove the seeds and stalks. Cut each half into three and put in a small roasting tray with the thyme. Roast for 15 minutes, then add the chillies and the garlic. Give the tray a shake and roast for another 30 minutes – until the peppers are sweet and just starting to char.
Remove the skins from the garlic and put the contents of the roasting tray in a blender with the remainder of ingredients for the harissa. Pulse then blitz for 90 seconds until smooth. Check for seasoning – add more lemon juice if you think fit and a good pinch of sea salt. Scrape into a bowl or jar, cover and refrigerate until one hour before needed. Serve it at room temperature.
For the quail, mix the dry spices together and rub over and into the birds. Leave overnight or for at least a couple of hours.
Preheat the oven to 210C and ensure the cooking shelf is towards the top of the oven – say 2/3-3/4 up.
Split each of the cinnamon sticks into four and bung in the cavity of each quail. Place on an oven tray and spray with Lurpak Cooking Mist. Put the birds in the oven/. After 6 minutes, quickly remove the tray from the oven, closing the door immediately to retain temperature. Spray the birds again with the Cooking Mist and swiftly return them to the oven. Roast for 4 minutes more. Remove and rest for 5 minutes.
Parsley based salads are good. As are flat breads. Use your fingers.