so-long summer

bbq jumbo quail marinated with lemon, thyme & walnuts 

While I try to not play favourites with the seasons, I must admit that Summer does hold a special place in my heart. Long balmy evenings, beautiful light, bountiful stone fruit, frosty glasses of crisp crisp Riesling, luscious tropical fruit (how good were the mangoes this year?), not to mention the berries, or the humble tomato, long lazy holidays, beach sand between your toes, bikinis & sarongs, that reassuring warmth of sun on naked skin. What’s not to love?

So it’s with mixed emotions that at the end of February each year I start to think about the change in season. This year, with our uncharacteristically mild and damp Sydney Summer, I must admit that I’ve been even more reluctant than usual to welcome the cooler shorter days. But as I’ve started to find my thoughts increasingly turning to red wine instead of white and the gigantic plane tree outside my bedroom window becoming less and less green and more brownish with each passing day, there is a little spark within that is secretly welcoming the change.

Last weekend, when planning a menu for a leisurely Sunday evening with some friends who have become even closer over the past few sun kissed months with trips to a certain shack at Macmasters beach and shared theatrical awe under the top of the famed Speigeltent. A BBQ to say a fond farewell to Summer seemed to be the perfect way to go. BBQ quail given a post cooking soak in a slightly Autumnal walnut & thyme marinade on a bed of sweetcorn-spiked-polenta with a zesty, well textured green been basil & preserved lemon salad…. all good things…

a late summer bbq with new friends
bbq jumbo quail marinated with lemon thyme & walnuts
bbq sweet corn polenta
green bean & preserved lemon salad
verjuice poached peaches with olive oil icecream

bbq jumbo quail marinated with lemon, thyme & walnuts
serves 8
Inspired by Maggie Beer

This was inspired by one of those throw away comments with which Maggie peppers her prose. I hadn’t really thought of marinating meat post cooking as it rests but now that I’ve discovered it I’m keen to experiment more. The marinade and the resting meat juices combining to provide a light and effortless sauce.

Jumbo quail are the perfect plate sized bird. At approx 200g each they work well one per person unless you happen to have a hoard of hungry carivores on your hands. Feel free to substitute in smaller quail or even spatchcock and just adjust the quantities and cooking times accordingly.

I love sliced lemon on the bbq as an accompaniment to poultry or fish. The charred, slightly caramelised flavours enhance the citrussy notes and the exposure to heat makes them all the more juicy. I like to eat them skin and all but they can be purely decorative if you’re feeling less game. Another option is to skip the BBQ lemon and add the zest of a couple of fresh lemons to your marinade.

8 jumbo quail, butterflied
4 lemons, deseeded & sliced into 0.5cm slices
1 lemon, additional unsliced
1 bunch lemon (or regular) thyme
4 handfuls walnuts, toasted & coarsely chopped
extra virgin olive oil

Preheat BBQ to medium high. Rub quail with a little oil and season with s&p. BBQ along with the lemon slices, turning ever couple of minutes until almost cooked through, approx 8mins. The lemon won’t take as long as the quail. Place in a clean ceramic dish and drizzle over juice from the additional lemon, thyme sprigs, walnuts & a generous pour of extra virgin olive oil. Allow to marinate for at least 10mins before sering.

bbq sweet corn polenta
serves 8-10

There’s nothing quite like eating corn straight from the cob. I clearly remember the joy of being able to hoe into chow down on some as soon as I had my braces removed all those ears ago.

The secret to BBQing corn, as I learned from the lyrical Matthew Evans in the Good Weekend section of the Sydney Morning Herald is to soak it well so that the husks are all moist to help retard burning as the inner kernels cook away on the barbie.

If hot polenta seems a bit much, by all means give it a miss and increase the number of corn cobs and serve hot from the BBQ. If, on the other hand, it’s not really corn season, feel free to ditch the BBQed kernels and serve your oozy polenta straight up. For more on polenta click HERE.

250g instant polenta
1.5L (6C) milk
500mL (2C) water
2 bay leaves, optional
75g unsalted butter
3 cobs corn, whole husks attached

For the polenta, preheat oven to 200C, bring milk, water and bay leaves and some salt to the boil in an ovenproof saucepan or cassrole dish. Gradually rain in the polenta whisking constantly. Allow to simmer stirring for a few minutes then cover with foil or a tight fitting lid and transfer to the oven. Bake for 1 ½ -2 hours or until polenta is oozy and no individual grains remain. Taste & season well.

Meanwhile soak the corn whole in pleanty of cold water for at least 15mins. Preheat bbq then cook corn turning occasionally over a high heat until husks are charred and the kernels are tender. Allow to cool then remove and discard husks and the silky inner bits. Using a sharp knife, shear corn from the cob and keep aside.

When the polenta is ready sitr through butter and charred corn kernels and return to the oven for 5 mins or so to heat through. If the polenta is too thick for your liking, stir through a little boiling water from the kettle.

green bean, basil & preserved lemon salad
serves 8
Inspired by Maggie Beer

As I mentioned last week, I’m a massive Maggie fan. One of the things I really admire about her is the way she incorporates otherwise exotic ingredients into her everyday country Mediterranean cooking style. I’m pretty sure it was Maggie who introduced me to preserved lemons.

As my lovely friend Aggy learned when she volunteered for a bit of sous chef action, I tend to just trim the tops of beans and leave their pretty pointy ends intact. But if, like Aggy you prefer your beans more Chinese-style, feel free to give them a chop chop to both ends.

800g green beans, topped
½ preserved lemon (2 quarters), finely diced
1 red shallot, peeled & finely sliced
juice 1 lemon
1/2C (125mL) extra virgin olive oil
8 handfuls wild rocket (arugula)
1 small bunch basil, leaves picked

Bring a very large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add beans and cook until tender. Drain and place in a large bowl of iced water to cool and refresh. Whisk together preserved lemon, shallot, lemon juice and olive oil and season gently, remembering that the lemon is very salty.

When ready to serve drain the beans well using paper towel and then toss with basil & rocket in the dressing and arrange prettily on a platter.

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  • I love the post-cooking soak concept. Must give that a try. I’ve been lusting after quail or spatchcock lately. It must be an impending autumn thing (although Melbourne has warmed up again). Little birds are somewhat painful when feeding ankle biters though. They’re an adult dish.

  • I’m mourning the passage of winter here in Washington, DC and you’re experiencing the waning days of summer at the same time. At least we’re both making chicken and green beans!

  • Fantastic! Have to admit I’ve never cooked quail myself but looking at those images is inspiring if not mouth watering. Yes sadly summer is waning here in NZ too…

  • Am I the only weird one who thinks those quail have a somewhat human quality? Like they’re drunk girls in a hot tub? Anyone? No? Just me, ok… sorry about that…

  • Hmmm where does one find jumbo quail? Something tells me I’m not going to find them in Orange Woolies, but the sure do look good! The cool days are already here in Orange, wish I could have a bit of Sydney humidity across here!

  • Dani
    Yeah the post cooking marinade is great… all those resting juices going to good use… and you do have a point about children an little birds

    great reminder that some things are transeasonal

    the most difficult part of cooking quail is the procurement.. hope you decided to give them a go

    lovely imagery there ‘drunk girls in a hot tub’ I think you’ve nailed it. I remember seeing a photo of a butterflied quail lying on its back with the legs crossed that was a little freaky

    yeah I’m thinking Orange Woolies isn’t going to help but am sure if you called up your local butcher they’d be able to order them in for you… wish I could send the humidity your way

  • Wow, this sounds fantastic! I too am intrigued by the soaking concept–it makes sense, though I wouldn’t have thought of it til you pointed it out!

  • haha I second the notion of drunk girls in a hot tub…they definitely do have a humanlike quality…kinda creepy…lol…

    the recipe sounds wonderful though…I’ll have to give it a try!

  • The green bean salad, sounds so divine, and I have some preserved lemons in my fridge as we speak…looks like they might show up this weekend for a Christmas dinner party I’m having! YUM

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