Casseroled Quails in a pear Tree

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In the autumn when my garden is full of rather hard pears I find this simple casserole a marvellous way to make use of them. They seem made for the delicate flavour of quails, which have more flesh on them than you would think. Don’t be alarmed by the quantity of garlic – cooked long and gently it becomes sweet and mild.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 25 g (1 oz) butter
  • 8 quails
  • 1 small red pepper, deseeded and sliced finely
  • 1 large bulb fennel, trimmed and sliced thinly
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 6-8 cloves garlic
  • 4 firm pears, peeled, quartered and cored
  • 397 g (14 oz) can chopped tomatoes
  • Salt and black pepper

Method

Put the olive oil and butter in a large flameproof casserole and heat to a fairly high heat. Add the quails, in batches if necessary, and turn until lightly browned all over. Remove the birds to a plate and keep on one side. Reduce the heat to medium, then add the sliced pepper and fennel to the casserole and cook, stirring often, until softened. Add the fennel seeds and the whole cloves of garlic. Cook for another minute or two, then remove from the heat.

Arrange the pear pieces among the vegetable mixture and season with salt and black pepper. Place the quails on top, in 2 layers if necessary, and spoon the chopped tomatoes evenly over each quail. Season again with a little salt and black pepper. Cover the casserole and cook just above the centre of a preheated oven, 190°C, 375°F, Gas Mark 5 for 1–1¼ hours. Transfer to a serving dish or serve straight from the casserole.