Thursday, 29 December 2011

Quail Korma - Calling in the New Year

I was scanning the supermarket shelves the other day and this little bird caught my eye. So small you can cup it in your palms and so fragile its bones are like toothpicks. Dear reader, I did not quail in fear. Like a curious cat I brought a couple back home to play with in my Kitchen.

Quails are infact migratory birds that fly upwards if scared rather than shrink back in fear (to quail). They are part of the pheasant family and therefore are classed as a game bird. In France, you can buy quails (farci) stuffed with figs or (nature) whole - head included. The French usually roast them in the oven with shallots, wine or mushrooms but I decided to channel the God of Spicy Things and found that quails were a popular dish at the Moghul royal table. So what better way to pay homage to those great kings than to make a Quail Korma?

The Moghuls - descendants of Genghis Khan -ruled India for 300 years from the 16th  to the 18th century. It was during this time that Moghlai culture, literature, architecture-think the Taj Mahal- flourished and cuisine; a combination of North Indian, central Asian and Persian fused together in the Royal kitchens to create some of the most popular dishes today like Korma, Rogan Josh and Biryani.

A Korma is a term given to any cream or curd based curry with nuts or dried fruits. The heat from the peppercorns and chilies is balanced with the cream, nuts and saffron in this rich dish befitting of kings. The Moghuls loved to eat and employed hundreds of cooks from across their Empire to create lavish feasts which lasted for hours.

No different to our French friends then who like to linger at the table. In a nod to both cultures I made the following recipe to celebrate the New Year in true Moghlai style, for hours, or at least until the countdown to midnight!

Happy New Year!

Serves four to five
2 tbsp Canola oil
1 Cinnamon stick
4 Cloves
4 bruised Green Cardamoms
1 tsp of Cumin seeds
4 medium Shallots
4 Garlic Cloves pureed
2cm fresh Ginger pureed and 1cm Julienned
1 Green Chili (or Red) deseeded for a milder curry
2 tbsp Tomato Puree (or 3 medium tomatoes if in season)
2 tsp of Poppy seeds ground to a paste (optional)
1/2 tsp of Turmeric
1/2 tsp of Chili powder (paprika)
1 tsp of Coriander powder
2 tbsp of Milk (whole or semi skimmed)
A pinch of Saffron threads
2 tsp chopped fresh Coriander
10cl of fresh cream or small pot of plain yoghurt
4 Black Cardamom seeds
1tsp Garam Masala
1/2 tsp of Mace powder (optional)
A handful of Cashew nuts
Salt to taste
6 Quails, skinned without the head


1. Skin the Quails -this is necessary for the spices to penetrate the meat. Using a small paring knife, slide the knife under the skin over the breast. Make a slit and gently pull the skin off. Take your time otherwise you might end up breaking the bones. We want the bird intact for a nice presentation on the plate. Wash the quails thoroughly inside and out in tepid water. Set aside.
2. Fry the oil in a thick bottomed saucepan on medium heat. Add the cinnamon, cloves and cardamoms. 30 seconds later, add the cumin seeds and 30 seconds after that add the onions.
3. When the onions begin to brown, add the ginger and garlic puree, stirring continuously.
4. Next add the turmeric, chili  and coriander powders. Salt to taste. Mix well. Then add the tomato puree (or fresh tomatoes without skins and chopped). Cook for a few minutes, stirring. Add the poppy seed paste and season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. In another smaller saucepan, warm the milk. When it comes to a boil add the saffron and stir continuously to release the colour. If the milk develops a skin, scrape it off with a spoon. Add the chopped coriander to the milk.
6. Lower the heat slightly for the large saucepan, and put the quails in one by one. Cover them with the sauce (tip: use two spoons to turn the quails over carefully). Cover with the lid and simmer for 3 minutes.
7. Pour the milk over the quails and put the lid back on. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes.
8. Add the cream and turn over the quails. Grind the black cardamom seeds (either with a pestle and mortar or an electric grinder). Add this to the sauce along with the garam masala and mace, stir gently.
9. After another 10 minutes of simmering, check the quails to see if they are cooked. If the juices run clear from the meat then it is done. Remove from the stove immediately to prevent further cooking as quail meat will become hard if overcooked.
10. Garnish with a sprinkling of crushed cashew nuts and chopped fresh coriander. Serve with Basmati rice and/ or Naan bread to mop up this lovely creamy sauce.

No comments:

Post a Comment