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Paperchef #59 Quail, Cabbage and Lime

Through the power of the Twitterverse I stumbled across another food blogging challenge that caught my attention. Paper Chef is a monthly competition, that happens the first full weekend of every month. The idea is this: 3 ingredients are randomly selected from a list of ingredients on the paper chef website, a theme is assigned, then food bloggers around the world develop a recipe, photograph it and blog about it.

This months ingredients are quail, cabbage and lime. The theme is July.  I had a think about it, tossed around a few ideas; rejected the salad and the simple roast with cabbage; and settled on a risotto. Cooking in July, in the Southern Hemisphere, is hearty winter food. No one back in the UK believes me when I tell them it gets cold in Sydney. Admittedly, the average daily high in winter is about 16C, however the temperature at night can get as low as 2-3C (it doesn’t happen often but we had 1C and a sprinkling of frost the other morning). That would be fine but the houses just aren’t built for such low temperatures, so they get very cold inside.  This means winter in Sydney screams hearty, comfort food to warm me up from the inside out.

So how do I turn quail, cabbage and lime into comfort food?  I roasted the quail and served it with a wintery risotto of course. Risotto is something I cook all year round as it doesn’t usually involve putting the oven on, but somehow using red wine and adding mushroom and bacon makes it more wintery.

Lime wasn’t an obvious flavour combination for the risotto, but had to be included somewhere, so I decided to roast it inside the quail to add flavour and keep the bird moist, the same as if I were roasting a chicken with lemon.

Cabbage is in season here at the moment so fits the bill for the wintery theme. A risotto is probably not the first thing you think of for cabbage, but I recently tried a Jamie Oliver recipe for risotto with radicchio that worked surprisingly well, and one of my favourite pasta recipes has cabbage in it, so it actually not such a strange idea.  Throw in some bacon, mushrooms and sage, topped off with a roasted quail and you have the perfect winter comfort food, with a touch of class.

Quail, Cabbage and Mushroom Risotto serves 2

2 quail
1 lime
4 sage leaves
salt, pepper and olive oil
180g risotto rice
800ml hot stock (chicken or vegetable)
75g bacon, chopped into cubes
half an onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
handful chopped fresh sage
100ml red wine
2 medium flat mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cabbage, sliced
40g butter, plus butter for frying
olive oil
salt and pepper
Parmesan to serve

To start, prepare the quail for roasting. Remove any giblets from the inside of the bird and stuff with a slice of lime and 2 sage leaves.  Season the quail with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Place in a small roasting tin ready to roast. Pre-heat the oven to 200C.

Set aside the quail while you start the risotto.  In a suitable frying pan, slowly fry the onion, celery and garlic, until it starts to soften but not brown, after about 5 minutes add in the bacon and up the heat a little to brown the bacon.  After a few minutes, add in the risotto rice and stir for a minute to coat in oil until it starts to turn translucent. Add the wine, and increase the heat to boil off the alcohol, stir until all of the wine is absorbed then start adding the stock a ladle full at a time.

As you start to add the stock to the risotto, put the quail in the oven and roast at 200C for 12-15 minutes until the quail is browned and cooked through. Once cooked, remove from the oven and cover with foil to rest for a couple of minutes while you finish off the risotto.

After you have added a couple of ladles of stock to the risotto add the sliced mushrooms. Stir the risotto continuously as you add the stock, so the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. This also helps to achieve the creamy texture of the risotto.  The risotto should take about 20 minutes to cook. About 5 minutes before the risotto is ready, fry the cabbage in a separate frying pan in hot butter. Fry for about 2 minutes until starting to brown, but still remains a little crunchy.

To assemble the risotto, once the rice is cooked to your liking, remove from the heat and stir through the 40g butter, a handful of grated Parmesan and the cabbage. Adjust the seasoning to taste then put the lid on the pan and leave to stand for 5 minutes while you carve the quail.

Squeeze the lime from the quail into the risotto and stir in any pan juices.  Serve the risotto, with the carved quail on top and sprinkle with Parmesan.

I always judge new dishes with the “Should I cook it again?” rule.  This was definitely a ‘do again dish’, except I might use lemon instead of lime next time. Thanks Paper Chef for introducing me to the delights of your challenge, looking forward to next month already!

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