Very Merry Christmas

Mallika Basu - Very Merry Christmas


quail-curry-small.jpgNormally for Christmas I have all of my hubby’s family over and do a full turkey dinner, complete with all the trimmings and mulled wine. But this year aunt Maggie (or Madge) bravely volunteered to have it in her country house by the river in South East England.

Not having a Christmas dinner to cook left me feeling a little bit empty. So when my colleague and foodie Emma suggested I created a special curry for Christmas, she got me thinking.

My first thought was of the turkey curry buffet, much maligned in one of my favourite films – Bridget Jones Diary. But Ems recommended game meat, which I thought was an excellent suggestion.

Game meat is traditionally eaten in the North of India, where shooting parties famously slow cooked fresh birds and lamb after a hunt. There is a dish called jangli mangsh, which is fresh game meat cooked in equal quantities of meat and whole chillies. This has the capacity to set your ears on fire and deliver your baby, but it’s so good you can’t bear to stop eating it.

Anyway, I picked quail or batair for my Christmas curry. Quail has a lovely in-betweenness about it. Rich and deep like red meat, yet not quite. I developed a recipe that uses all the typical Christmas spices.

Here is my recipe to serve 2. I would recommend a frying pan to cook this in:

2 whole quails
6 quail eggs
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves
1″ ginger
2 tsp coriander powder
2 tsp cummin powder
Quarter tsp garam masala
Quarter tsp chilli powder
Quarter tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp yoghurt
Whole spices: 1″ stick cinnamon, 1 star anise, 4 whole peppers, 4 cardamoms, 4 cloves, 1 bay leaf, sprinkle of nutmeg
2 tbsp thick Greek yoghurt
2 tbsp sunflower oil

Heat the oil and when hot add all the whole spices bar the nutmeg. When they start sizzling, add the onion and fry until brown.

Puree the garlic and ginger and add to the mixture, keep frying for five minutes. Then add the turmeric, chilli, coriander and cummin powders. Fry on a high heat until pungent smell of the masalas go. Keep adding a little bit of water to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom and to soften the onions.

Now add the yoghurt and fry for five minutes. Add a cup of hot water and wait until it reduces. Now lower the flame and let the masala simme.

When it starts oozing oil, add the two quails. Add half a cup of hot water, cover the pan and let it simmer and cook. In the meantime, cook in seperate pan the quail eggs.

Turn the quails over once to ensure even cooking. Also stand them upright so you get any juices from inside into the gravy. Add the eggs to the pan and sprinkle the garam masala powder and the nutmeg.

Simmer the quails until they are cooked and serve with bread or rotis.

Before I go to aunt Maggie’s, I want to wish all of you and your families a very Happy Christmas. Hope it’s fun and not too hectic!

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