Cordoniz en Salsa de Granada

Quail Braised with Pomegranate

Years ago, with the idea of MoVida still forming in my head, Vanessa and I spent several weeks in Valencia researching ideas and recipes. We wandered into this great antiquarian bookshop. When I saw the cooking section my heart raced. There were old books and some that were out of print. One book that caught my eye was a book about food from the Balearic Islands. To me the Balearics are another culture; there they eat all manner of different foods such as sobrasada (a soft pork sausage) and a dish of melt-in-the-mouth quail, cooked in a rich dark sauce enlivened with fresh pomegranate juice. I spent around 50 000 pesetas on books and walked out the door, arms loaded, into the blinding sun wondering how I was going to get my books home.

Ingredients

  • 6 quails
  • fine sea salt
  • 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) olive oil
  • 2 brown onions, finely chopped
  • 4 carrots, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves, chopped
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 300 ml (10½ fl oz) white wine
  • about 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) chicken stock
  • 2 pomegranates
  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) floury potatoes
  • oil, for deep-frying

Method

Trim the neck and any loose skin off the quail. Season the inside of each bird with a little fine sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. With kitchen string, truss the wings and legs to the body. Heat half of the oil in a large flameproof casserole dish over medium–high heat and seal the quails on all sides, seasoning each side. Remove the quails from the casserole.

Discard the oil and scrape the pan clean. Add the remaining oil and sauté the onion, carrot, garlic and herbs over low–medium heat for 20–30 minutes until the onion has caramelized. Add the tomato and cook for 5 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4).

Increase the heat to high, add the wine and scrape the bottom of the dish with a wooden spoon. Put the quails in the dish and add enough chicken stock to come to about two-thirds of the way over the quails. Bring the stock to the boil.

Remove the dish from the stove, cover with the lid and cook in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for a further 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the seeds of the pomegranates with a spoon over a sieve above a bowl. Reserve the seeds and 80 ml ( fl oz/½ cup) of juice. Set aside. Cut the potatoes into matchstick-sized strips using a mandolin or very sharp knife. Soak in cold water to remove some of the starch and set aside.

Remove the casserole from the oven and transfer the quails to a plate. Cover to keep warm. Put the casserole back on the stove over medium–high heat. Add the pomegranate seeds and juice and cook for 10–15 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced and thickened slightly. Keep warm.

While the sauce is reducing, deep-fry the potatoes. Fill a deep-fryer or large heavy-based saucepan one-third full of oil and heat to 175°C (345°F), or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil browns in 20 seconds. Drain the potato and pat dry with paper towel. Deep-fry the potato in batches for 3–5 minutes until golden brown. Drain on paper towel then sprinkle with a little salt.

Serve one quail per person (or two quails if serving is ración size) on a warm plate. Spoon several tablespoons of sauce over the quails and serve with the vegetables and potatoes to one side.