60 ml (¼ cup)olive oil2large Spanish onions, thinly sliced4garlic cloves, thinly sliced½ tspcardamom seeds, lightly crushed½ tspdried oregano6jumbo quail (180-200gm each), legs tied150 gmdried chickpeas, soaked overnight in cold water, or 200gm canned chickpeas4baby carrots, trimmed and halved widthways1/3 cuporegano leaves8thyme sprigs1bay leaf300 mlgood-quality chicken stock2 tbspcurrantsSqueezeof lemon juiceSaffron liquid30saffron threads60 ml (¼ cup) boiling water
To make the saffron liquid, lightly toast the saffron threads in a dry frying pan over a medium heat for about 30 seconds. While the threads must be totally dry, be very careful not to burn them. As they crisp up, they will begin to release a wonderfully pungent aroma. Tip the saffron into a mortar and leave for a moment or two before grinding to a powder. Mix the ground saffron with the boiling water and set aside to infuse for at least 1 hour before using. The colour will continue to develop for about 12 hours.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan or casserole dish over a low heat. Add the onion and garlic and fry gently until soft and translucent (8-10 minutes). Stir in the cardamom seeds and dried oregano and cook for another couple of minutes. Lift the mixture out of the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Season the quail with salt and pepper. Add a little more oil to the pan, if need be, and brown the quail thoroughly (10-12 minutes). Drain the soaked chickpeas (rinse and drain the canned ones, if using). Return the onion mixture to the pan and add the chickpeas, carrot and fresh herbs. Pour in the stock and 2-3 tbsp saffron liquid or to taste (you may have some left over). Bring to the boil, then lower the heat, cover the pan, and simmer very gently until the quail and onions are very tender and the chickpeas are cooked (1-1½ hours). From time to time, skim away any impurities that rise to the surface.
Towards the end of the cooking time, add the currants to the pan. Simmer for a further 4-5 minutes, then season with salt to your liking and stir in the lemon juice. Serve straight away.
Note Reproduced from Saraban ($79.95, hbk) by Greg and Lucy Malouf, published by Hardie Grant Books. Recipes have been reproduced here with minor Gourmet Traveller style changes.
This recipe is from the November 2010 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.