The four quail I bought earlier are now cooking on the oven. It is another recipe from the Ottolenghi book – quail with tamarind and apricots. I started by rubbing them down with a mixture of ground cumin and fennel, dried chilli, salt and pepper and putting them in the fridge for a couple of hours whilst I made supper for the rest of the family
For this I used the last of the spinach from the garden. It looked a bit straggly but having picked what I needed there may be enough left for something else next week. I had to give it a good soaking in cold water to get rid of all the bugs and soil splashed up by the rain. I then cooked it in the water that was left. Once it had collapsed I refreshed it in cold water again and then squeezed it out until I was left with a tennis ball size ball of green. This was finely chopped then mixed into ricotta cheese and mozzarella, salt and pepper and an egg and stuffed into cannelloni. These were all laid into a shallow dish and covered with tomato sauce.
The only tamarind I had was some paste in the fridge in the basement. I brought that upstairs together with the quail. The quail were browned off in olive oil for 15 minutes and then put to one side to rest for a while. The recipe said raisins but we didn’t have any so I used some dried dates instead. These were thrown into the hot pan with some dried apricots and thyme which had a few seconds to take before I seethed it all with water and half a glass of white wine. A teaspoon of the tamarind paste went in and it all tasted raw and uncouth. The quail went back in and a lid put on and it was turned down to a simmer.
By the time it was done it was delicious. With quail it is difficult to get away from them being small birds not much bigger, and who knows how much tastier, than those that strut around the garden, but there is meat on them. I started with knives and forks but only lasted a few minutes before my fingers were delving in pulling leg and wing from breast and dipping into the gravy which by now had become a deep, velvety and good. There was the sweetness of the dates and apricot, tempered by the heat of the chilli and all held together somewhat unexpectedly by the tamarind. It all made for very good finger food.