Monday, 28 November 2011

Q is for...

... Queen Elizabeth cocktails and Scotch quail eggs, quesadillas,  quahogs in Quinta, qotban, quince-stuffed quail with quinoa, queen of puddings (and quaking pudding) with a quenelle of Quark ice cream and qumbe with coffee.

When Richard and I hosted Easter last year for the whole Glass clan, he was concerned there wouldn't be the slightest hope we could fit them all in. My mother was bringing an extra table, along with a few chairs and extra crockery and cutlery. Problem solved I said. Richard asked for the measurements of the extra table to see if it would fit in the room. I replied, as is my wont, with, "It'll be fine". Richard, unconvinced, asked again. I rang up my mum and dutifully asked for the table measurements, to which she replied, "Oh, but it's behind lots of stuff in the garage and it will be a pain to have to get it out before we actually need it. And, if it doesn't fit, don't worry, we'll work something out when we get there. It'll be fine". Her voice could have been mine. This is exactly how I approach all things. If I fall in love with a painting or a piece of furniture AND extraordinarily enough I can afford to buy it, I do. I just do. Without any thoughts on where to put it or if it will fit or if I can find it cheaper elsewhere. If I fall in love with a person, an object or an idea, I go with it, certain in my belief, and regardless of anything else, that it will fit, there will be room and it will all work out in the end. Richard approaches things very differently. Armed with his parents' log-in details for Which? magazine, a tape measure and a firm idea of his current bank balance, he makes decisions based on reason and logic and asks questions like, "But do we really need a new ...?".  This is why we work well together; he reigns me in where necessary and I tell him to "bugger it, just get it" when I can see he really wants something frivolous, but feels guilty about it. I've talked before about the process for creating an Alphabet Soup menu and probably the most vital part of this process is the bit where Richard reigns in my natural extravagance and ungrounded optimism by saying something on the lines of, "Have you invited Mr Creosote?" or simply, "That looks like rather a lot of food. Are you trying to kill our guests?" This time, this part of the process was going to have to be sacrificed for the greater good. I was going to go it alone for Q for a very important reason.

Richard is always privy to everything. He is the only Alphabet Souper (apart from me), who knows what we are eating before we eat it. He is the only Alphabet Souper allowed in the kitchen, in case secrets of courses to come are uncovered. He is the only Alphabet Souper who occasionally rolls up his sleeves and prepares a letter-themed dish. And, so it struck me, that all those things also meant that Richard was the only Alphabet Souper who hadn't fully experienced Alphabet Soup. For the letter Q, this was all going to change. The menu planning, shopping and food preparation were going to be secret until each dish was served. He wasn't allowed anywhere near the kitchen and he had no idea what we were going to eat, drink or the music we were going to listen to. This highly secret evening kicked off with Queen Elizabeth cocktails and enormous Scotch quail eggs to a soundtrack of Queens of the Stone Age and Queen. Thankfully, neither of us own any Queen Latifah.

Queen Elizabeth

If I'm honest, I have absolutely no recollection of what these tasted like, or, more extraordinary still, whether or not I liked them. This leads me to believe that I probably had more than one and that they must have packed quite a punch. If you want a less hazy description, I suggest you try one yourself. I'm sure they're very good. Probably.

2 shots of gin
1/2 shot of dry vermouth
1/2 shot of benedictine

Shake over over and strain into a Martini glass.

Scotch quail eggs

Richard hates eggs, but I knew he wouldn't be able to resist these little lovelies, covered, as they were, in a thick layer of delicious sausage meat. Admittedly, the layer of sausage meat may have been rather too thick, which is why my hopes for soft, gooey yolks, fell by the wayside. After accidentally making Scotch quails eggs the size of Scotch hen eggs, I was left with only two choices: I could either have runny yolks and raw meat, or cooked meat and hard eggs. Obviously, I went for the latter, but next time I won't make the mistake of being too meat-greedy again. Still, they were completely delicious and Richard and I, rather unwisely, gobbled up two each, leaving us quite full before I'd even dished up the starter.

4-6 quails eggs
200g sausage meat
A pinch of cayenne pepper
2 eggs, beaten
Plain flour for dusting 
Fine breadcrumbs or Panko
Salt and pepper
1 litre of rapeseed or sunflower oil

Prick the top of each egg with a cocktail stick and boil in salted water for a minute to a minute and a half (go for 2 minutes if you want them hardboiled). Remove the eggs from the water with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a bowl of ice-cold water to stop them cooking any further. You have to work very quickly here.

Season the sausage meat generously with the cayenne and salt and pepper, you can even add a splash of Tabasco if you fancy it. Fry off a little ball of the meat so you can taste it for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Being very careful not to break them, shell the eggs inside a bowl filled with cold water - it will make the job easier. Flatten a ball of sausage meat into a flat patty shape, place the egg in the middle and carefully wrap it in the meat.

Put the beaten eggs, flour and breadcrumbs in three separate bowls and roll the eggs first in the flour, then egg and finally the breadcrumbs. Place them in the fridge for half an hour to firm up before dunking them again in the egg and then the breadcrumbs.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan)

Heat the oil in a wide heavy-bottomed pan and deep fry the Scotch quail eggs for a few minutes until golden brown. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil and pop them in the oven for a further couple of minutes before serving.

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