PUBLISHED: 12:10 22 November 2016 | UPDATED: 12:10 22 November 2016
In her final Bitesized column, our voice of farming Judith Taylor suggests Norfolk quail as a Christmas dinner option
The Great British Game Week falls on November 21 to 27, so why not take the opportunity to try something a bit different like gamey pies, sausages, burgers and charcuterie – perfect comfort food for a cold and wet November evening?
For my last ever Bitesized column, I am going to tell you all about quail – the UK’s smallest game bird. As I mentioned in the September issue, I helped judge the Best Specialist Food and Drink Producer as part of the Aylsham Show’s Norfolk Hero Food and Drink Awards. Ellie and John Savory of Norfolk Quail, based at Highfield Farm, Great Ryburgh, in west Norfolk, won this category and then went on to become the overall champions. . . and very well deserved winners they are. Ellie and John wanted to establish an English alternative to intensively farmed French quail meat. There was a definite gap in the market. So they set up their very impressive business in 2011. They now supply top chefs and restaurants all over the UK.
Quail are pretty little birds with brown feathers which are streaked and barred with buff. They hail from the Middle East and records go back as far as 770BC. They are good flyers and our only migrating game bird, but if you see one in the wild you’re very lucky – you can usually hear their distinctive call rather than spot them.
When shopping for quail, look for a plump bird with a creamy, yellow skin which is tinged with pink. One per person as a starter will do nicely but you will need two each as a main course. It can be roasted, pan-fried, baked or barbecued and is very flavoursome, sweet and succulent. A great alternative to turkey this Christmas perhaps.
Quail eggs are delicious too and ideal to serve as canapés. They are very easy to cook and Norfolk Quail recommend that to hard boil you simply place the eggs gently into already boiling water for two-and-a-half minutes. Remove them from the heat and drain into cold water with one capful of vinegar for five minutes. The vinegar will help set the shells into the inner membrane which makes peeling easier. Drain, peel, serve and enjoy! w
What goes well with quail?
Ellie Savory of Norfolk Quail recommends potato and parsnip mash – you can find the recipe on their website
Parsnips are, of course, in season at the moment and one of the most flavoursome root veg we have. They have been grown for at least 2,000 years. The Romans loved them, especially Emperor Tiberius who imported wild parsnips from the banks of the Rhine. Before sugar was available, parsnips were used as a sweetener in jams, puddings and cakes.
When you buy a parsnip it should be firm and dry, definitely not slimy. They become sweeter after a good frost. Store them in a cool, frost-free place and they will keep for a good week to 10 days. Did you know that in Italy, pigs which are reared for Parma ham are often fed on parsnips?
We’re all looking for good ideas for Christmas presents at the moment and I thought Annabel Karmel’s Children’s First Cookbook: Have fun in the kitchen (published by Dorling Kingsley, priced £7.99), is just that. Very simple recipes including sunny scrambled eggs, easy-peasy cupcakes, jam sweethearts and smoothies, are all perfect for the budding chef in the family.
To find out more about quail and how to buy them, see Norfolk Quail’s website, www.norfolkquail.co.uk