The BBQ season is peaking and you may by now be growing a bit tired of grilled sausages and collar of pork. So this recipe may come in handy – offering an alternative of barbecued quail with oriental flavoring. The recipe is taken from Rick Stein’s inspiring Mediterranean Escapes, one of my favorite cookbooks – there is simply nothing I could suggest to make it any better, and though I usually try to post recipe that bear my own signature, one has to admit sometimes that to some things are just beyond improvement.
On a different note, if you do not have access to a barbecue, do not despair – this dish can also be prepared in the oven (and really turns out equally nice), just follow the instructions in the recipe below. I actually opted to prepare the dish in the oven during the last Christmas season when firing up the BBQ out there in the cold and wet Berlin winter somehow did not at all seem that alluring an idea…
Further, if you are having trouble (such as I did) getting hold of Aleppo pepper: The spice shop of my confidence recommended long pepper as an alternative. I have to believe them – and am herewith passing on their wisdom – as I still have not had the chance to draw the comparison.
As suggested by Rick Stein, this dish is served with a side of wonderfully spicy Turkish ezme salad. And, of course, lots of fresh warm flatbread.
For the quails:
- 2 to 4 quails
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 teaspoons of Aleppo pepper (alternatively long pepper)
- 100 grams of natural yoghurt
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons of zahtar (plus some for serving)
- sea salt flakes
- freshly ground black pepper
For the ezme salad:
- 1/2 green pepper, membrane and seeds removed and finely chopped
- ca. 100 grams of cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise and seeds removed, finely chopped
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 large tomatoes, skinned and finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 to 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon of Aleppo pepper (alternatively long pepper)
- 1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 2 mint sprigs, leaves picked off and finely chopped
For serving: Fresh flatbread
Preparing the quails:
- Prepare the quails by cutting out the backbone: Put on a cutting board breast side down and cut along both sides of the backbone with poultry scissors. Remove and discard. Make a small incision in each side of the breast in order to let the marinade penetrate.
- Place in a bowl of shallow dish an pout the lemon juice over the quails. Turn over an rub well into the meat. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the Aleppo pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, cover with cellophane and set aside in the fridge for ca. 20 minutes.
- In the meantime, mix the yogurt with the garlic, olive oil, tomato paste, zahtar, the remaining Aleppo pepper, another 1/2 teaspoon of salt and some freshly ground black pepper.
- After the first 20 minutes of marinating time, pour away the excess lemon juice from the quails, add the yogurt mixture and rub it well into the birds. Cover with cellophane again and set aside in the fridge for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Pre-heat the barbecue. Make sure it is properly hot (but so hot that the quails will burn).
- Put each quail on two skewers tuning through the side (this will keep them flat and permit them to cook evenly). Sprinkle with a bit more Aleppo pepper and sea salt. Barbecue for approximately 5 minutes on each side (until the bones start sticking out), depending on the heat of your barbecue. They should not turn too dark!
- Alternatively, place a large cast-iron plaque or griddle in the oven and heat up the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. When properly heated up, place the quails (on skewers as described in step 6) on the plaque and let cook for approximately 10 minutes from each side. Watch out again that the bones start sticking out – this is a sign that they are done.
- Sprinkle with some more zahtar and serve immediately on pre-warmed plates with the ezme salad and fresh flatbread.
Preparing the ezme salad:
- While the quail is marinating, prepare the salad: Mix the finely chopped pepper, cucumber, onion and tomatoes.
- Let drain in a sieve until most of the liquid has gone, then transfer to a bowl and add the olive oil, vinegar, Aleppo pepper, parsley, mint and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Mix well. Set aside in order to let the flavor infuse properly.