2wild or farm-bred quails (if in France ask for the Princesse grade), plucked, cleaned and trussed
2 large waxy potatoes weighing 250g (8–9oz) each
60g (2oz) butter
Preheat the oven to 250°C/500°F/Mark 10. When it is hot put in the potatoes carefully washed but not peeled. They will take about 1 hour to cook, and can be tested to see if they are done by piercing them with a knife or skewer. If they are soft right through to the middle they are ready. If you have not managed to persuade your butcher to clean and truss the quails, do it while the potatoes are cooking.
Heat a frying-pan and toast the coriander seeds, stirring them about continuously, until they are uniformly done. Pour the seeds on to a cloth on a flat surface and, using a bottle, crush them to a fine powder, rolling them out as if you were making pastry. Using a fine wire sieve, sieve the powder on to a plate and set on one side.
minutes before the potatoes are due to be cooked, season the quails, inside and out, with salt and pepper. Put them in a small enamelled cast-iron cocotte just large enough to hold them, in which you have melted 10g (½oz) of butter. Brown them on all sides, then cover and cook for 15 minutes. Keep hot.
When the potatoes are cooked, take them out of the oven. Cut a 1 cm (½ inch) slice off the long side of each potato and set these slices aside. Remove the cooked potato from each potato skin with a spoon without piercing the skin. Collect the potato in a bowl and, without letting it get cold, incorporate 50 g (1½ oz) butter cut into small pieces, and the coriander powder (2). Season with salt. Work the mixture to a smooth purée with a fork. Put a third of the purée in the bottoms of the two potato skins and put a roasted quail in each. Spoon the rest of the potato purée round and over the quails. Smooth the surface and put on the ‘lids’ – the slices which you have kept on one side. Put back in the hot oven for 5 minutes and serve in a folded napkin accompanied with a salad of lamb’s lettuce (mâche) or other salad in season.
Bordeaux (Saint-Emilion or Saint-Estèphe) or Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence