"Getting the bird" - a Moroccan Christmas, stuffed quail on sage and onion polenta

Marroquina de natal,codorniz em cima de polenta salva e cebola

Turn those trials and tribulations into a triumphant Christmas.
This is the ideal main course if you want to spend time with your guests.It is effortless entertaining.What preparation there is,you can do in advance, putting the birds in to roast just before the first course, and everyone gets their own bird.
 "To get the bird" is a derogatory term manifesting itself in a two finger symbol of defiance, the middle finger being held up demonstratively.This "up yours" hand gesture (the rigid finger representing the hypothetical object to be inserted) signifies contempt.This recipe not only sticks the finger up to the traditional roast turkey, but sees the cook being given the freedom to relax and enjoy family and friends without being a slave to the stove.I have included an alternative lighter and fruitier stuffing for those who think the cous cous stuffing is too rich in combination with the polenta base.A taste test of the two stuffings saw the fruit and nut stuffing coming out tops,and so I will be stuffing our traditional Free range Christmas duck with the fruit and nut stuffing.
Moroccan stuffed roast Quail on sage and onion polenta
Serves 6

12 small quails or 6 large ones
Up to 24 rashers of rindless streaky bacon

FOR THE POLENTA (this can be made the day before)
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive oil
2 large cloves garlic finely chopped
1/2 medium sized red onion finely chopped
10 fresh sage leaves chopped plus one teaspoon dried sage
2 cups chicken stock,preferably home made
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup polenta or coarsely ground yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Extra sage leaves for garnish
In a large heavy saucepan,heat the olive oil over alow heat.Add the garlic and the red onion and sauté,stirring constantly,for about 3 minutes until softened.Do not let the garlic burn.Add the chicken stock,water and Flor de sal and bring to the boil over a medium high heat,Reduce the heat and when the liquid is simmering,gradually sprinkle the polenta over in avery slow,thin stream,whisking constantly in the same direction until all the grains have been incorporated and no lumps remain.Reduce the heat to very low.Switch to awooden paddle and stir thoroughly every few minutes for 25 to 30 minutes or until the mixture pulls away from the sides and bottom of the pan and the grains of polenta have softened.Stir in the pepper parmesan,butter and finally the chopped and dry sage.The mixture will be quite thick.
If you have 9cm-12 cm baking tins (eg Miniature quiche pans)brush them with oil according to the number of quail.Alternatively oil a large shallow tin or roasting tray.
Turn the polenta out into the individual pans or tray and using a spatula repeatedly dipped in very hot water,spread the polenta evenly until it is about 1/2 inch thick.Cover with a tea towel and allow to rest for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.If you have used one large tin,cut out the appropriate number of rounds of polenta to the number of quail.
NOTE: if you are using quick cook polenta,follow the instructions according to the packet adding the butter parmesan sage and seasoning as soon as you have put the polenta grains into the liquid.

I medium onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic finely chopped 
1 soup spoon Ras al Hanout
150 g cous cous
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
250 ml vegetable bouillon or stock
6 dried apricots,finely chopped
handful of chopped coriander stalks
Small handful chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup pistachio nuts finely chopped 
1 cinnamon stick 
Stir the Ras al hanout onion and garlic in a heavy based saucepan over a low heat for 2  minutes or until fragrant.Add the olive oil and cous cous and stir vigorously to combine.Add the boiling stock,cover with a lid, remove from the heat and stand for 10 minutes,Fluff up the cous cous with a fork to separate the grains.When completely cold add the apricots, coriander, parsley and pisatchios stirring well to combine everything.

2 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar 
1 teaspoon soya sauce
1 tablespoon runny honey
teaspoon piri piri flakes

Spoon couscous mixture in and push cinnamon stick into chicken cavity. Tie legs together with kitchen string.Wrap each bird in 1-2 bacon rashers,tucking the ends underneath and securing with a cocktail stick if necessary.Place the polenta discs in an oiled roasting tin and rest the the birds breast side up on top of each disc.
Place, breast side up, on rack in roasting pan. Whisk honey,olive oil,cider vinegar, soya sauce and piri piri flakes in a jug. Brush over each quail.
Roast quails, basting every 20 minutes with remaining honey mixture, for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until juices run clear when thigh pierced with a skewer. Stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Serve with vegetables of your choice and quince sauce.

An aromatic citrus spiced fruit and nut stuffing ****
I onion,finely chopped
1 garlic clove crushed
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
handful shelled pistachios
handful toasted pine nuts
handful blanched almonds
handful dried apricots chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons honey
olive oil
Heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan,soften the onions and garlic in the oil till the onons are golden.Add the spices,apricots,nuts,lemon zest and juice and honey.Cook for a further two minutes.cool slightly then blend including all the pan juices and scrapings.


  1. I think if this was my last meal on earth, then at least I would have died happy!


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