PUBLISHED: 09:03 26 November 2013 | UPDATED: 09:03 26 November 2013
As any cook will tell you, one of the most exciting things that can happen to you is when you discover a new ingredient, the excitement is palpable when you find that's it's the holy grail . . . it's "local".
Meeting Ellie and John Savory at this year’s Royal Norfolk Show led me to discover Norfolk quail, those cute but very delicious little birds that we’d previously purchased from France.
However, it looks like I’m late to the party. Chris Coughbrough, the Flying Kiwi, Richard Bainbridge from Morston Hall and Eric Snaith from Titchwell Manor have had them on their menus for an age. I’ve always been a bit slow on the uptake. Still better late than never, so they are making their debut on our menu this month.
Though the Savory family have worked Highfield Farm for over 100 years, the introduction of quail is relatively recent, beginning to rear the birds in 2011. They’ve already found their way on to the menus at Clarence Court and are stocked by Harrods, Fortnum and Mason and our very own grocery emporium Bakers and Larners of Holt.
The birds are reared organically at the farm at Great Ryburgh, fed on a natural diet of grain, making for a slightly larger bird than their French relations. Doubtless the Savorys’ “free to fly” policy makes a very plump bird indeed! They are then dry plucked, making a beautiful little single bird portion for a light lunch or a starter. For years we’ve used the eggs to make pretty garnishes, now we are roasting the whole birds, however it’s surprisingly simple to bone and stuff them if that’s your inclination.
For such a small bird they pack some serious flavour, variations we’ve tried include smoking over tea, Tandoori style, or grilled and serving on toast with wild mushrooms and fried egg, quail egg of course. If you’d like to try this month’s recipes, you can get this delicious Norfolk ingredient at stores all along the north Norfolk coast or better still buy direct from the farm or online. Of course the recipe will work for any of the smaller game birds that are now coming into season, showcasing the very best of this counties bountiful harvest.Norfolk Quail Ltd, Highfield Farm, Great Ryburgh, Fakenham, NR21 7AL; 01328 829249; 07768 088348; firstname.lastname@example.org
Honey roasted quail with spiced pearl barley
2 Norfolk quail
50g pearl barley
50ml rapeseed oil
½tsp smoked paprika
50g pine nuts
50g dried apricots
50g dried figs
1 lemon juice and zest
100ml vegetable or chicken stock
Large bunch flat leaf parsley
Bunch fresh mint
100g Greek style yoghurt
1 Heat the butter and honey in a heavy pan.
2 Add the quail, breast side down. Roast for 15 minutes, turn over and roast for a further 10 minutes, basting frequently.
3 Heat the rapeseed oil. Add the pearl barley and coat in the hot oil.
4 Add the paprika, saffron and turmeric.
5 Chop the apricots, fig.
6 Add to the barley, along with the sultanas.
7 Place in the juice and zest of a lemon and 100ml vegetable or chicken stock. Bring to the boil and simmer until the barley is cooked, approx 20 minutes.
8 Add the toasted pistachios and pine kernels.
9 Add the roughly chopped parsley. Taste and season with salt and milled black pepper.
10 Allow the quail to rest for 20 minutes, place a top the pearl barley. Serve with minted yoghurt.