Tasty birds for summer
Grilled quail with ras-el-hanout
All the scents of Morocco are used in the sweet spice mixture ras-el-hanout, with its notes of nutmeg, ginger, nigella, cinnamon and rose petals. Many good delis have it, or you can order a particularly fragrant sachet from
seasonedpioneers.co.uk. You will need some hummus to serve with the quail.
12 large oven-ready quails
for the marinade:
garlic - 4 cloves
sea salt - 1 tsp
ras-el-hanout - 3 tbs
olive oil - 8 tbs
lemon juice - 3 tbs
Peel the garlic and mash it with the salt in a pestle and mortar. Add the spice and continue mixing to a loose paste with the olive oil and the lemon juice.
Using a heavy knife, cut the quails in half down their backbone and open them out flat. Press them down firmly with the palm of your hand. Rub them all over with the marinade and set them aside in a dish for a good few hours (or overnight if you wish).
Get the grill or griddle pan hot, then place the quails on it, breast-side up, cooking for 8-10 minutes or less, depending on their size. Turn over, and continue cooking for a further 5-8 minutes. Test them: you want the meat to
be slightly pink inside and very juicy. Serve with spoonfuls of hummus.
Chicken with watercress and mushroom sandwich
boneless chicken breast - 1
butter or oil
sliced mushrooms - a handful
lettuce or watercress leaves - a few
soft baps of crusty rolls - 2
Slice the chicken breast into thin strips about 1cm wide. Season with salt and pepper and sauté in butter or oil in a frying pan. Remove the chicken when it starts to brown, after about one minute, and set aside to keep warm (on a plate with a glass bowl on top will do). Add a little more butter or a drop more oil to the pan, then cook a handful of sliced mushrooms until softened, about 2 minutes. Lift them out with a draining spoon and add these to the chicken.
Soften a few shredded lettuce or watercress leaves and stems in the butter left in the pan, lift them out and stir in a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise.
Spread two soft baps or crusty rolls, split and toasted, with the mayonnaise and then pile on the chicken, mushrooms and leaves.
Chicken and lemon couscous
I've done many versions of this lazy, lemonscented salad over the years and I still think this one is the best. The warm grains, the chargrilled chicken and the little nibs of preserved lemon make it sing in the mouth.
couscous - 150g
stock (vegetable stock is fine) - about half a litre
chicken breasts - 2 large
aubergine - 1 large
fresh mint - 20g
coriander - 15g
preserved lemons - 2
fresh lemon - 1
spring onions - 4
Put the couscous in a mixing bowl. Bring the stock to the boil and pour over the couscous. It should cover the grains by a couple of centimetres or so. Leave until the couscous has absorbed the liquid.
Oil and season the chicken and grill it on both sides until it is golden. It should still be tender inside. I like to do this either on a ridged grill pan or over the bars of a grill, but it is good enough cooked under an overhead grill. Set the chicken on one side to rest a little.
Slice the aubergine thinly and grill it on both sides. Remove from the heat and dress it immediately with olive oil. Remove the mint leaves from their stems and chop them roughly, then do the same with the coriander. Fold them into the couscous, along with the juice of the lemon.
Cut the preserved lemons in half and remove the pips then chop the flesh into small dice, mix it into the grains together with the slices of grilled aubergine, and a generous grinding of salt and black pepper.
Divide the couscous between two large plates. Slice each of the grilled chicken breasts into about five thick pieces then lay on top.