Spicy, piquant and sweet roast quail, basmati rice and Japanese salad

Spicy piquant and sweet roast quail

Having read Fernandez & Leluu’s mouth watering recipe for roast chicken, I was determined to recreate it for last night’s dinner. Accordingly I assembled all the ingredients and fished out of the freezer some drumsticks and wings left over from various fowl dismemberings, and two quail that were lurking at the back.

The only thing missing was Teppanyaki marinade. So I improvised. Adding a dash of this and glug of that, tasting and adjusting is one of the most fun things about cooking. It feels like alchemy – turning seemingly unrelated ingredients into a coherent and tasty whole.

To the Soy, honey and mustard, I added some Mirin to add a clear and sweet taste (quite different from the deep, almost savoury sweetness of the honey), then after tasting, I added the juice of half a lemon to give it a zingy edge and a teaspoon or so of Cayenne pepper to add some background heat. All of this resulted in a deep, punchy marinade with a piquant edge and a little background heat. Perfect.

The result was a very flavourful dinner, with some rice to soak up the sauce (far to good to pour away) and a crunchy, nutty salad to provide a clean counterpoint to the sticky meat. This was cold (virus not temperature) food – powerful enough to reawaken dulled tastebuds and with enough texture to excite the same.

Soy, honey and mustard roast fowl with rosemary

80ml Dark Soy Sauce
2 dessert spoons dark honey
3 heaped teaspoons dijon mustard
2 glugs mirin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Juice of half a lemon

The rest:
1 bulb garlic
4 sprigs of rosemary
1 onion, sliced into quarters
2 quail
4 chicken drumsticks
2 chicken wings
Sichuan pepper

Heat the oven to 200oC. Whisk together the marinade – quantities are approximate. Like any proper alchemist, taste as you go until you reach the desired result. If you want something a little less punchy you could subsitute light for dark soy and add a little less honey.

Slice the whole garlic bulb in half across the middle so all the cloves are cut in half, but still attached to the bulb itself. Plonk all the meat into a roasting tray and spread out evenly. Tuck in the two halves of the garlic, the four onion quarters and the rosemary sprigs. Pour over the marinade and make sure everything is well coated. Grind over some Sichuan pepper to add a little tingle to the meat.

Put it into the oven and cook for 30 minutes, then turn all the meat and put back in for another 20 minutes. Take it out and leave to rest for five to ten minutes while you assemble the salad. Serve over rice, noddles or anything else that will soak up the juices.

Japanese sesame cabbage salad:
Taken (and slightly adapted) from Everyday Harumi, this is quick to create and tastes fantastic. Clean and crunchy, it goes with pretty much everything. The sesame gives it a great nutty undertone, the vinegar adds piquancy and the cabbage adds a fantastic crunchy texture and peppery flavour which is balanced by the sweet carrot and pungent onions.

Half a small cabbage, very finely sliced
1 carrot grated
4 spring onions finely sliced on the diagonal
1 tsp sesame oil (or olive)
70ml rice vinegar
2 tsp caster sugar
Japanese or light soy sauce
4 tblsp roast sesame seeds (white and black)

Mix together the vegeetables and then add the oil, vinegar, caster sugar, soy (to taste) and sesame seeds in that order, mixing in each ingredient as you add it. It makes a fantastic side or starter for a dinner, or the centrepoint of a light lunch. And it’s perfect for a packed lunch (along with leftovers from the roast above).

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