A traditional preparation from Tamil Nadu, this quail masala is a must try for all quail lovers. The gravy is mildly spiced and light but packs so much flavour from all the whole spices and aromatics. Enjoy it with rice, parathas or appams.
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Getting on to today’s recipe, I have been wanting to share a quail dish for a while now.
What does quail meat taste like?
Quail meat is often considered to be a delicacy. While it is similar in flavour to chicken, duck etc… it has a deeper and more intense flavour with a hint of wild game note to it. Also, being a smaller bird, it has almost an equal ratio of meat to bones.
The meat is darker and more comparable to duck rather than chicken which has white meat. It’s denser and hence, the cooking method chosen must be suitable to accentuate the true flavour of the meat.
To make this quail masala, I have first shallow fried the meat and then slow cooked in a gravy with spices and aromatics. This helps keeps the meat juicy and tender.
This quail masala is as much about the spices as the meat.
While the ingredient list reads long, it’s just a handful of whole spices so making this dish is pretty simple.
It’s the spices, both whole and powdered that lend the layers of flavour to the gravy. It also enhances the taste of the quail meat taking away some of it’s gamey-ness yet retaining the flavour of the meat.
The measurements provided yield a medium spiced quail masala but if you could adjust the quantities (more or less) depending on the level of heat you prefer.
Cooking the quail meat:
In this recipe, the quail is first shallow fried and then slow cooked in the gravy. This allows to retain the juices and keeps the meat moist and juicy. The meat can also be deep fried if you prefer that texture.
Take care not to overcook the meat. After shallow frying for 2 minutes on either side, I slow cooked the quail in the gravy for about 12 minutes. But this will depend on the size of the quail. So if you have doubts, check after 10 minutes and if the meat is opaque, then the quail is done.
The best combination for this quail masala is ghee rice. Aromatic rice cooked with ghee and spices is a heavenly rice dish…it’s a must try. You could also pair with chappathis, rotis, appams (hoppers) etc…
So let’s get cooking this delicious, full of flavour Tamil Nadu style Quail masala.
Tamil Nadu style Quail Masala
To shallow fry:
- 5 Quail cut in half lengthwise (refer notes)
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- ½ tsp red chilli powder
- Salt to season
- 2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
To make masala:
- 2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 bay leaf
- 1 black cardamom
- 4 green cardamom
- 4 cloves
- 1 inch cinnamon bark
- 3 dry red chilli
- 4 red onions; thinly sliced
- 2-3 green chilli based on heat preferences
- ¼ cup fresh mint leaves
- ¼ cup fresh coriander leaves
- 2 large ripe tomatoes; sliced
- 1 tsp crushed ginger
- 1 tsp crushed garlic
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- ½ tsp cumin powder
- ½ tsp fennel powder
- 1.5 tbsp coriander powder
- 3 cups water refer notes
- 3 sprigs fresh coriander leaves; finely chopped
- 1 tsp lemonjuice
To shallow fry quail:
- Cut the quail in half lengthwise, clean and wash well. Allow to drain.
- Marinate the quail with turmeric and chilli powder for 10 minutes.
- Heat oil in a pan and shallow fry the quail on both sides for 2 minutes each. (Refer notes)
- Keep aside.
To make masala:
- Heat oil in a large wok/kadai and add bay leaf, green and black cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and dry red chilli. Fry for 30 seconds on low heat.
- Next add the onions, green chilli, coriander and mint leaves; saute on medium heat till the onions are soft and translucent, just starting to take on the golden brown colour.
- Add the ginger, garlic and tomatoes; saute till the rawness of the aromatics goes away and the tomatoes are soft and mushy.
- Next add cumin, coriander and fennel powder; mix thoroughly and continue to cook till the mixture comes together and oil starts to leave from the edges.
- Add water and bring to boil.
- Finally, add the shallow fried quail, mix well. Taste and season with salt if necessary. At this point, you can also add more green chillies or chilli powder if you prefer it more spicy.
- Continue to cook on low heat till the quail is soft and tender. Took about 12 minutes but this will depend on the number and size of quail.
- Remove from heat and add lemon juice and coriander leaves. Stir through and keep covered for 15 minutes before serving.
• The quail can be deep fried too if you prefer that texture.
• The amount of water can be increased or decreased depending on the preferred consistency of gravy.
My little assistant! One of these days, he is going to eat the food while I am setting it up.