When I opened my bottle of 2010 Aurum Chardonnay it was like being transported to an orchard pack house full of fragrant Central Otago apricots. Its’ stone fruit bouquet and creaminess makes me think of roast chicken and grilled apricot. Quail cooks a lot faster than chicken, however either would be delicious, or Cornish game hen or Poussin. I’ve added a side dish of buttery Pilaf with toasted pine nuts to complement a little toasty oakiness and rich mouth feel of this Chardonnay.
4 Quail Pilaf rice
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2.5 cups long grain rice, rinsed well under cold running water.
3 cups boiling chicken stock
.5 teaspoon salt
2 fresh bay leaves
1 cup pine nuts, toasted carefully in a dry frying pan
Heat the oil and butter in a saucepan and add the garlic and onion. Fry gently, without browning, until the onion is soft. Add the rice, mix well and sauté for three minutes. Don’t allow it to brown. Remove from the heat for a moment before adding the bay leaves, salt and hot stock. Bring to the boil and cover tightly. Turn down the heat to the lowest setting and cook for 20 minutes. Don’t cook with the lid off, it must be kept on.
Remove from the heat and place several layers of newspaper (at least 8) on top and place the lid onto the newspaper. The newspaper will absorb the steam rising instead of it dripping back into the rice, and so makes it fluffier. Let stand for at least 10 minutes without uncovering. Uncover and fluff up rice with a fork. Sprinkle in the toasted pine nuts.
This recipe is a very generous quantity. You could add saffron to the pilaf if you like, by adding a pinch to the onion and garlic at the beginning. You can make the Pilaf in advance, cool it, and heat it later when the Quail are perfectly cooked. For the quail
Halve the quail by snipping either side of their backbones (you could make a wee stock from the bones if you wanted) - and then slicing between the breast. Each half will be one breast and one leg. It’s best to remove the ribcage, just feel your way underneath it using your finger and a sharp knife and slice it away.
Bamboo skewers – soaked at least 6 hrs in cold water so they don’t burn as much
4 cloves garlic, minced
100mls extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing
Freshly ground black pepper and salt
Thread each Quail half with two skewers (it doesn’t matter where you put them) – just so that they are flat and you can lift them on and off the barbeque.. Mix the garlic and the 100mls olive oil and brush the mix all over the quail. It’s better if you can do this earlier so they marinate in the fridge.
Cook the quail on a moderate barbecue for about 6 minutes on each side. Brush the marinade from time to time.For the Grilled Apricot Salsa:
8 apricots, halved and pitted.
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped coriander
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1 tablespoon chopped mint
Half (or a whole) red chilli, chopped very finely
salt and pepper to taste
Brush the apricot halves with a little olive oil and season. Place them on the barbeque on moderate heat until grill marks appear, then turn and cook the other side. When a knife inserted into the apricot goes through easily and apricot juice is bubbling, remove the fruit from the grill.
Dice the grilled apricot – don’t worry if it’s a little mushy – and mix through all of the salsa ingredients. Taste. Season. Sometimes I add a small spoonful of honey depending on how much of everything else I’ve put in. To serve
You could plate individually: place the barbecued quails on the pine nut pilaf rice with the apricot salsa on top. Or it’s nice to present the rice in a large serving dish with the pine nuts sprinkled over, and maybe some chopped fresh herbs, the Quail also on a large platter and the salsa in a separate bowl for everyone to help themselves. Add a crisp green salad to the table and enjoy!