Although I've said that all the dishes were kept secret from Richard on Q night, there were definitely no surprises here with quail, quince and quinoa. He may not have anticipated them all being served on the same plate, but if bets had been placed he would certainly have cleaned up with these three. But none of that really matters, and besides, there is hardly an exhaustive list of foods beginning with Q, so as far as predictions go, there was bound to be quite a high hit rate for accuracy. Despite the lack of surprises at the contents of this particular dish, it worked together beautifully.
I love the subtle gamey taste of quail, but I know plenty of people who can't be bothered to order it in a restaurant because they're so small and boney and it can get tiresome picking the carcass for the last remaining scraps of meat. I personally quite like carcass-picking, but I'd already decided to stuff my quails with quince, so boning seemed the obvious way forward. I'm lucky enough to have one of London's finest butchers only a short bus ride away from where I live, so I asked the lovely folk at Moen's to bone my quails for me. I didn't own a boning knife at the time (this year's Christmas changed that - thanks Richard!) and thought I might slice my hand off if I tried to use a chef's knife on something so tiny. Ready-boned, these were a doddle to stuff and a cinch to slice.
Unlike David Lynch, I've never been much of a quinoa enthusiast, but this was soft, mellow comfort food. It's the kind of food you crave when it's cold and dark outside and you're feeling tired and lazy. The kind of food that you can just spoon into your pie hole and lazily chew once or twice before it's ready for swallowing. The kind of food you could probably get away with eating if you didn't have teeth. Like mashed potato or rice pudding. I'm never going to be sent into a frenzy of pleasure or delight by eating quinoa, but it has its place and I think I've found it: lying under a quail stuffed with quince.
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
A few spring onions, finely chopped
A bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 pint of fresh chicken stock
A glass of dry white wine
A knob of butter
Fry the onions, garlic and chilli in the butter until soft. Add the quinoa and the stock and wine, stir and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, pop the lid on and leave to simmer for 15 minutes. Throw in the parsley and stir through for a couple of minutes. Season to taste and serve.
I bought the quince cheese (membrillo) as quinces weren't in season at the time of Q. I found a wonderful quince-centric company who were so passionate about their products when I rang, I ended up buying more than I'd ever intended.
I've made my own quince cheese before and, aside from passing it all through a sieve, it's not tricky at all. Just chop up the quinces and simmer them in water for a couple of hours until very soft and pass them through a sieve. Next, place the pulp in a saucepan with an equal volume of sugar, add a squeeze of lemon and simmer for a few hours until it becomes very thick and a drop sets hard on a cold plate. Pour into oiled jars or pretty shaped dishes with lids so that you can upturn them straight on to a cheese board, or, in this case, into a quail.
to serve 2
2 boned quails
1 packet of parma ham
2 tbsp quince cheese
2 tbsp Hot Quince Jelly (optional, as I said, I got rather carried away while quince shopping)
Preheat the oven to 190°C (170°C fan)
Simply place 1 tbsp of quince cheese in the centre of the boned quail, season and roll up the bird like a sausage. Wrap it in parma ham and place on a baking sheet. Repeat with the other bird. Heat the hot quince jelly in a small pan to melt and then brush it over the parma-wrapped quails. Pop them in the oven for about 20 minutes. Rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.