Generally I would like to think that I’m not a squeamish person. I don’t faint at the sight of blood, I can watch true life medical documentaries and I don’t generally have a problem with meat or the fact that it used to be a living animal. However I do have one squeamish weak spot and that is offal.
I eat and enjoy pate and, once, I even very bravely made my own, but that involved deliberately not thinking about what I was doing! I’ve also tried heart and kidneys when they have been presented as part of a very posh plate of food at a restaurant, because well, it would be rude to leave it and if I have to eat offal having it cooked at a posh restaurant is probably the best way to try it.
However offal is certainly not something I would actively select on a menu and definitely not something that I would choose to cook at home. There is something about it that just gives me the creeps.
Last weekend I bought some quail in Lidl on a whim. I’ve never cooked quail before but I’ve seen them quite often in the supermarkets over here and had always fancied giving them a go. Once I got them home I started looking through my cookbooks for recipes and inspiration. Despite trawling through many books I only managed to find two recipes for quail, both in Spanish Flavours by Jose Pizarro. One called for the quail to be spatchcocked and the other for it to be completely jointed.
In addition to never having cooked quail before I’ve also never really tried to butcher a bird – if I need pieces I tend to buy them ready jointed. Wanting to try something new but not fancying going quite the whole hog of dissecting the tiny carcasses I decided I’d have a go at the spatchcocking option which would only require me to cut either side of the spine with a pair of scissors to flatten the bird. I figured even a novice like me should be able to do that and still end up with something edible.
Getting the quail out of the packet I was a little bit perturbed to discover that they still had their necks attached, turns out a little bit more butchery would be required than I had anticipated. I quickly grabbed a sharp knife did my best to remove the appendage. This done, the quail were looking slightly less neat and tidy, but overall not too bad to I was quite pleased with how things were going.
I turned the quail over and set to work with the scissors cutting up one side of the spine. The crunching of bones was a little disconcerting but I persevered and managed to cut the whole length of the bird and this is where the unexpected encounter comes in. Opening the carcass up I discovered that several organs were still attached!
To say I was surprised would be a grave understatement. Back in Britain on the rare occasions that chicken came with its “added extras” they would be neatly packed into a (easily disposed of) plastic bag inside the bird rather than still being in situ.
I hate to admit it but my first reaction was to wonder if I should just throw the whole lot away – I certainly didn’t want to go anywhere near the inside of the birds and was suddenly feeling a lot less hungry! Once I eventually got over my surprise and squeamishness I finally plucked up the courage to remove the organs and carry on with my spatchcocking and cooking.
I’m glad I did as the end meal (griddled quail with braised lentils) was delicious.
I’m actually pretty proud that I managed to overcome my aversion in a small way and not only remove the organs but actually continue to cook and eat the quail after butI’m not sure if I fancy taking this task on again anytime soon. I still have two quail in the freezer so I supposed I will have to brave the task at some point but I fear them may lurk in the frozen depths for a while yet.