All holiday guests have hopped on planes back home, the rain has settled in on Sydney and I think it is a perfect time to reminisce about our Christmas lunch. Of course it would of been better to blog on the evening of the 25th but that was not possible- one too many glasses of plonk, a tummy full of fabulous food, not to mention all the star wars lego that needed to be fixed and re built.
If I am cooking Christmas day Nic always likes to fix a course for us to start with. He usually makes a delicious salad of some sort and this year was no exception. He came across a recipe in Stephanie Alexander's 'Cooks Companion' for a pigeon and fig salad.
"Why don't you see if you can pick up a pigeon while your down the street shopping".
Sure I thought and perhaps if I can't manage to pick one up at the local butcher I'd shoot one from the sky, pluck it and have it ready for you to cook! This is when I suggested quail as a good substitute.
As Nic is accustom to my sarcasm he shot back with "what ever is easier for you".
I took Tarsh (my sister) along with me on the day before Christmas food shopping expedition as I thought it might get a bit ugly- people pulling and grabbing for the last punnet of strawberries, people standing on other peoples toes at the fish market vying for the best oysters, prawns and crayfish... I was happily surprised at how relaxed and normal everyone was. We were able to buy 90% of ingredients needed, managed to pick up a packet of fresh quail (a little disappointed I didn't get to knock off one of the rats from the sky myself) and make it home in time for a cuppa and a slice of December cake.
The beauty with Nic's version of Stephanie's salad was minimal prep allowing you to get it all ready while the quails are roasting in the oven. So we weren't without food for half a minute I whipped up some oysters Kilpatrick for Tarsh (she can't stand a-la-natural) and we began our Christmas feast with fresh prawns drizzled in lime, Sydney rock oysters and some pistachios while we waited for the quail to roast.
If you are wondering, my kids like many other kids and think oysters are disgusting! I have managed to get Max into eating prawns however Alex is still unsure and just likes to rip the heads off and make loud YUCK! noises as he is doing so. I am in no hurry for them to enjoy the delicate flavour of an oyster, it is bad enough I have to share the blue cheese with Alex, I don't think I could stand handing over an oyster seeing as I still only have them on special occasions.
Ok back to the salad, once quails have roasted on 210 degree for about 15 minutes they need to be 'rested' in foil. This is when you wash the baby endive, cut the fresh figs into halves or quarters and whip up your dressing. (Nic used a good red wine vinegar, e.v.olive oil with a good pinch of sea salt and cracked pepper).
Now the quails are rested and cooled a little you need to pick all the meat from their little bodies. When you have all the warm meat, toss it in with the baby endive and sprinkle with a little sea salt and cracked pepper followed with a good feta cheese. Drizzle on a bit of your dressing, toss and then place figs on each serving plate. Place quail mix in the middle and drizzle on a little extra dressing.
Such a simple and clean salad. The figs are a perfect match with the rich quail meat and creamy, salty feta. Endive is quite bitter which is an acquired taste (one the kids decided rather quickly they didn't like) however when combined with everything else you just didn't want it to end. A perfect salad for summer and goes beautifully with a cold glass of semillon.
Nic set the bar high as per usual so I had a bit of sweat on the collar when it was my turn to head toward the kitchen and begin the next course, however I'll leave that for another day.