Rishi Desai’s Butter Quail recipe

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Quail requires a sauce that complements the game-like flavour of the meat but doesn’t overpower it. Measure carefully the quantity of spices used in this dish. Serve with buttered NaanBread to scoop up the sauce.


Serves: 1 / Preparation time: 30 minutes / Cooking time: 30 minutes


3 teaspoons cumin seeds

3 teaspoons coriander seeds

6 garlic cloves, sliced

1 cm (3/8 in) piece of root ginger

Juice of 1 lemon

2 quails, deboned

250 g (9 oz) butter

1 large or 2 small onions, finely chopped

2 tomatoes, diced

1 tablespoon honey

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon chilli powder

1 teaspoon turmeric

50 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) thickened (double, heavy) cream

¼ teaspoon salt

Vegetable oil, to drizzle

Naan Bread (see recipe), to serve



Heat a frying pan over medium heat, add the cumin and coriander seeds and dry fry for 1–2 minutes, or until fragrant. Crush in a mortar using a pestle. Set aside.

Make a paste by crushing 4 of the garlic cloves, the ginger, lemon juice, and half of the crushed cumin and coriander seeds in a blender.

Rub 1 tablespoon of the paste onto the quail, place in a ceramic bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes to marinate.

Meanwhile, melt half the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Add the remaining paste and cook for about 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add the onions and remaining garlic cloves and cook for about 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the tomatoes and honey, and cook for 5 minutes, or until they start to break down. Transfer to a blender with the remaining cumin and coriander, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne, chilli powder and turmeric, and blend to a puree. Preheat the oven to

180ºC/35ºF/Gas mark 4.

Melt 50 g (1 ¾ oz) of the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the puree and simmer for about 5 minutes, until thickened. Strain through a fine sieve into a clean pan and place over medium heat. Slowly stir in 50 g (1 ¾ oz) of the butter and all the cream and cook for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Season with salt. If the sauce separates, whisk in 1–2 tablespoons water until combined.

Place a chargrill pan over high heat. Drizzle the quail with oil. Cook for about 1–2 minutes on each side. Transfer to the oven and bake for 3–5 minutes. Cover loosely with foil, and set aside to rest for 5 minutes. To serve, spoon the sauce onto the plates, top with quail and serve with naan bread spread with the remaining butter.

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