Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Roasted Norfolk quail with white asparagus, wild mushrooms and broad beans

Blimey, what a few weeks! I’ve been away getting married in Scotland, followed by a short honeymoon on the Islands of the West Coast (more on this next week), so things have been a little slow on the blog of late. But I’ve got a massive backlog of brilliant recipes coming up in the next few posts, and I’m happy to finally have the time to get things back in order. 

As we’re still clinging desperately onto the dregs of asparagus season I thought that this recipe would be best to get going with. Yet again the season has passed by in a flash, and yet again I haven’t taken advantage of the wonderful produce nearly as much as planned. I’m already looking forward to next May when I can grill more of those lovely green spears before covering in lemon juice and good olive oil… Only 11 months to go! That said, it’s never much of a disappointment when asparagus season is over, as we’re now thrown into heady gluts of peas, broad beans and courgettes, and even more recipe ideas.
As usual I’ve got sidetracked, but for this recipe I decided to use white asparagus. The meatier texture and slightly subtler taste combined well with the mushrooms, and the strong porcini flavour running through the dish. Instead of the usual grilling and charring, I decided to cook them in a little water and a fair amount of butter. This way they almost poach and steam at the same time, absorbing the butter but losing very little flavour at the same time.
This recipe came by chance whilst I was out shopping for a different recipe. That week I had had a real craving for a rich, meaty ragu, buttery and heavy with parmesan (this is before the heatwave!). I fancied pot-roasting some pigeons until the meat fell off the bones, before stirring it through some tender homemade pappardelle or orecchiette. I went to the shops hell bent on serving it up for dinner, but I couldn’t for the life of me find any pigeons! With such preconceptions on my mind I was stuck, and had no idea what to cook instead. At the fourth or fifth butcher I spotted some lovely plump Norfolk quails, and along with a nice selection of mushrooms I came up with the idea for this dish. Happily it was damn satisfying, but I still vow to rectify my pigeon woes…
Serves 2
2 quails, portioned into crowns. Wishbones removed and legs and trimmings saved for sauce 
3 large knobs of butter 
6 sprigs of thyme
For the asparagus:
4 white asparagus spears, trimmed and peeled 
1 knob of butter 
A squeeze of lemon juice
For the mushroom ketchup:
350g chestnut mushrooms, very finely sliced 
3 garlic cloves, grated 
2 shallots, finely chopped 
5 sprigs of thyme 
3 tbsp dried porcini mushrooms 
2 tbsp sugar 
2 tbsp cider vinegar
For the sauce:
The trimmings from the quail 
2 shallots, chopped 
2 garlic cloves, crushed 
The trimmings from the mushrooms 
3 tbsp dried porcini mushrooms 
6 sprigs of thyme 
A large glass of white wine 
500ml good chicken stock 
1 knob of butter
For the wild mushrooms:
2 handfuls of wild mushrooms, I used fresh porcini, girolles and morels. Cleaned and trimmed 
1 clove of garlic, finely sliced 
3 sprigs of thyme 
1 knob of butter 
A squeeze of lemon juice
For the broad beans:
2 handfuls of broad beans, podded and shelled 
½ a lemon, juice only
For the pancetta:
4 rashers of smoked pancetta

Start by making the mushroom ketchup. Put the dried porcini into a small bowl and cover with a bit of boiling water. Allow to soak for 15-20 minutes, then chop finely, reserving the soaking liquid. Set a large frying pan on a medium heat and add a good glug of olive oil. When hot, fry the shallots, garlic and thyme until softened. Add the finely chopped chestnut and porcini mushrooms and continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until everything is very soft. Stir in the sugar and the vinegar and taste, adding more seasoning, sugar or vinegar to get the balance just right. Tip the contents of the pan into a food processor and blitz well, then pass through a fine sieve into a bowl. Spoon into a squeezy bottle and set aside. 

Next make the sauce. Heat a large, high sided frying pan to a medium-high temperature and add a generous drizzle of olive oil. Season the quail trimmings well, then brown on all sides in the hot pan. Add the shallots, garlic, thyme and any mushroom trimmings to the pan and lightly caramelise, then pour in the wine. Reduce the liquid by half, then top up with the stock. Throw in the dried porcini mushrooms at this point. Bring to a boil and reduce to a thickened sauce, about 20-30 minutes. Strain through a sieve into a small saucepan and stir in the butter until emulsified. Set aside.
Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil and quickly blanche the broad beans for a minute. Shock straight away in ice cold water, then carefully squeeze the tender beans out of their shells. Squeeze over the lemon juice, sprinkle on some salt and pepper and set aside. 

Heat up the grill to medium-high. Arrange the smoked pancetta on a lined oven tray, then grill for a few minutes on each side until the rashers are crisp. Drain well on kitchen paper, then break into pieces.
Heat the oven to 190⁰C.
To cook the quail crowns, set a heavy frying pan on a high heat. Add a glug of olive oil, then sear the birds for 1-2 minutes on each breast. Turn the quail so they are sitting upright, then add a knob of butter to the pan and baste all over until golden brown. Transfer to an oven dish, then roast in the oven for 8 minutes, rubbing with more butter half way through. Let the cooked birds rest for 10 minutes before carving the breasts. 

While the quails are resting cook the asparagus. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add seasoning and a good splash of water. Add the asparagus and cook for 4-5 minutes, turning frequently. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice and add the shelled broad beans to warm through.  

Heat a large frying pan for the mushrooms and melt the butter. Add the thick porcini mushrooms first along with the garlic and thyme and cook for a couple of minutes. Tip in the girolle and morel mushrooms and toss everything together, then continue to fry until everything is just cooked and tender. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Reheat the sauce.
To plate up, arrange two pieces of asparagus on each plate and position the quail breasts to each side. Squeeze on a good dollop of the mushroom ketchup. Scatter over the mushrooms, broad beans and crispy pancetta. Finish with a good few spoonfuls of sauce.