In her final column for delicious., MasterChef winner Diana Chan looks ahead to balmy days and nights with a mildly spiced quail and rice dish.
AS THIS IS my last issue for delicious. I’d like to thank those of you who have tried out my recipes over the past year. I hope you’ve enjoyed making them and sharing them with your loved ones just as much as I have. I also hope you’ve picked up a few new recipes to try, and learnt a bit more about Malaysian cuisine.
This final recipe is all about freshness. As we come into the warmer months, I thought it would be nice to incorporate some mild spices to the dish, and use grains and fresh herbs to ease into the salads and cold foods that come with summer. I chose quail because it’s not commonly used and is a great substitute for chicken, but feel free to swap it for spatchcock, duck legs or even lamb ribs. The use of spices was inspired by all the cooking I did while in India recently. It’s amazing how much flavour can be injected into a dish just by using the right spice combination.
Saffron is a great way to introduce some colour into your cooking, and this saffron pilau pairs well with the crispy fried quails; the vivid colour of the threads adds a good contrast to the rest of the dish. Saffron can be very expensive, so you can add a teaspoon of turmeric when cooking the rice to get some colour, though it’s the saffron that gives it a distinct flavour. I’ve also added sultanas for sweetness and cashew nuts for crunch, but you can use different nuts such as pistachios or pine nuts. Enjoy!
For the spice rub, combine all ingredients and 1 tsp salt flakes in a large bowl.
Pat quails dry with paper towel, add to spice rub and massage until well coated. Chill for 2 hours or overnight. Stand at room temperature for 20 minutes before cooking.
For the pilau, heat ghee in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and cardamom, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until onion starts to caramelise. Add cumin and coriander, and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes or until fragrant. Add rice, sultanas, saffron and stock, and bring to the boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook, without disturbing, for 12 minutes. Remove from heat and stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Uncover and stir with a fork.
Meanwhile, half-fill a deep-fryer or large saucepan with oil and heat to 170°C (a cube of bread will turn golden in 2 minutes when the oil is hot enough). In batches, deep-fry quail, turning halfway, breast portions for 31/ minutes and leg portions for 2 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.
Top rice with coriander and cashews, and serve with quail.