Quails and quinoa

Andrew went away this weekend to visit with his Nanna in Canberra. We spoke earlier, just after he had missed his connecting flight home to Singapore and was waiting at Sydney airport for the next one! It did give us a chance to catch up on the weekends news as he whiled away the hours until the next flight.

Despite all of the stress and madness that goes along with missing a connecting flight and having to find a new one he sounded very relaxed which was lovely to hear.

He is also, of course, just coming off the receiving end of a weekend of Nannas royal treatment, the kind that only a Nanna can give. In this case, said royal treatment seemed to have been accompanied by a lamb roast with all the trimmings, multiple helpings of a plum cake served with cream (and ice cream!) and of course Nanna's rather infamous fruit cake.

After this little insight that Andrew casually slipped into the conversation, somewhere between the "Ive had a lovely relaxing weekend" (translate to I have been utterly spoilt by Nanna) and the "I've missed you" (translate to I'm trying to sneak something past you) I decided to make something light and  fresh for my dinner tonight, with the view that Andrew can take the leftovers for his lunch tomorrow – seems he might need to go a bit light and fresh!

I found this recipe in the latest Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine, they ran an article on “Super Grains”, which seem to be the new “it” thing to try. Not one to miss an opportunity to get on a band wagon I have recently been experimenting more with grains and have discovered I am quite partial to quinoa.

The recipe also appealed to me because it involves quail eggs and I have been dying to do something with these pint sized speckly spheres for a while after I first noticed my egg guy at Tekka Markets was selling them.

I had never cooked quail or quail eggs before. I recall my Mum making stuffed quails for a dinner party once when I was a child, I laughed at how teeny tiny the wings were and wondered how anyone could possibly make a meal of them!

This recipe was very simple and it fit the requirements of being a "bit light and fresh"! The tart dressing is a nice contrast to the slightly sweeter quail eggs and the freshness of the blanched asparagus adds good texture and crunch to the squishy quinoa salad base.

Quinoa and Quail Egg Salad
This recipe has been adapted from one found in the Australian Gourmet Traveller, March 2012 

The recipe calls for red quinoa and white asparagus (as well as green) but I was unable to find either in Singapore so used standard quinoa and double the amount of green asparagus. 

125g of (red) quinoa
12 quail eggs
2 bunches of green asparagus (cut into small batons)
8 large green olives chopped
½ cup each of coarsely chopped mint and flat-leaf parsley
1 golden shallot (I used red)
A generous  pinch of Sumac
Large bunch of baby spinach
Anchovy Lemon Vinaigrette
60 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
Juice of 1 small lemon
3 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed

I think this dish will be ideal for bbq’s and picnics served alongside a main meat especially given it can be prepared in advance. I in fact think the dressing should be made a few days in advance so the flavours have time to properly infuse.

Start by cooking the quinoa in boiling salted water until it is tender. This should take you around 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the quail eggs. You want them to be medium-boiled so the golden yolks are still a little runny, this will be around 2-3 minutes if you add them to already boiling water. Drain immediately and then refresh them by plunging them into iced cold water.

Blanch your asparagus until just tender and refresh them also.

When all the items have cooled combine the baby spinach, quinoa, olives, mint, parsley and shallot into a bowl and toss. Spread the mixture over a platter and then place the shelled and halved quail eggs over the top.

Make the anchovy and lemon vinaigrette by putting the olive oil, lemon, garlic and anchovies into a bowl and whisking. Dress the salad just prior to serving so the green don’t absorb too much of the oil or lemon and become limp.

If you are preparing the salad in advance leave peeling the quail eggs until the day of use and only dress the salad just prior to serving.

Yield: 2-4 portions as a light meal, or 8-10 portions as a small side salad.