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.

delicious - - MASTERCHEF - @DianaChanAU

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.

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