Rich red quail curry

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Elizabeth, Derry and I were given a lift across country from Lucknow to Agra by a group of men who were going shooting. We all squashed together in a small van for the long journey. As the conversation in India invariably turns to food they talked about how their wives cooked the game they shot - quails, partridge, duck and more. Back in England, I tried combining game birds with Indian spices and found it opened up delicious new ways of cooking them.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 fresh red chillies
  • 1 large red pepper
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • 2 medium onions
  • 75 g butter
  • 1 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ level teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 rounded teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ tablespoon tamarind paste
  • 300 ml very hot water
  • 400 g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato purée
  • seeds from 3 cardamom pods, roughly crushed
  • 6 quails
  • 4-5 tablespoons whole milk yogurt
  • sea salt

Method

Cut open the chillies under running water and discard the seeds and stems. Cut open the red pepper, discard the seeds and stem and chop roughly. Peel the garlic and onions and chop roughly. Put these prepared ingredients into a food processor and whiz to a smooth purée.

Heat the oven to 160°C/Gas 3. Melt the butter in a large flameproof casserole over a low heat. Add the ground spices and stir around for a minute, then add the vegetable purée, cover the dish and leave over a very low heat for about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, put the tamarind paste into a measuring jug, add the hot water and stir to dissolve the paste.

Stir the tamarind water, chopped tomatoes, tomato purée and crushed cardamom seeds into the purée in the casserole and season with a little sea salt.

Put the quails into the dish, cover and increase the heat to medium. When the sauce is just bubbling, transfer the dish to the centre of the oven. Cook for 1¼-1½ hours until the quails are tender enough to come away easily from the bone.

Before serving, spoon the yogurt on top of the curry, but don’t stir it in.