Grilled quail with sweet chilli sauce

Serves 6
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Viscous, sweet and slightly sharp, Thai sweet chilli sauce can be quite addictive. This recipe is more authentic than those found in supermarkets, and good with just about all grilled meat or robust fish. Make a big jar, as it keeps for a long time. If using as a salad dressing with veg, add a squeeze of lime juice as it can be cloyingly sweet.

Quail are good to eat through spring and summer as they possess a deep, satisfying flavour without having too overpowering a gamey taste. Here, they are rubbed with spices to add an Asian taste that works well with the chilli sauce. Allow two birds per person and encourage people to eat with their fingers, as there is not enough meat to warrant the use of a knife and fork.

1 tsp coriander seeds
3 star anises
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 dried red chilli
12 quail
1 tsp sea salt

For the sauce – makes 500ml/17fl oz

140g/41/2oz red chillies, seeded
450g/141/2oz caster sugar
250ml/8fl oz water
250ml/8fl oz white vinegar
A good pinch of sea salt

First make the sauce. Blend the chillies to a paste in a blender and set aside. In a heavy-based saucepan, combine the sugar, water and vinegar, bring to a gentle boil and add the chillies and salt. Cook for five minutes then set aside to cool before pouring into an airtight container. The sauce will keep for six weeks in the fridge.

Now move on to the quail. Place all the spices in a pan and place over a medium heat. Once the spices begin to pop, remove from the heat. Pound, along with the chilli, with a mortar and pestle, grinding to a fine paste. Rub the quail all over with the mix, massaging gently, and season with the salt. This can be done up to 24 hours in advance.

To cook, heat a barbecue and, once it is hot and the coals have died down, lay the birds skin-side down. (If you don't have a barbecue, place on a preheated griddle pan on a hob at a high heat.) Cook for eight minutes, then turn the birds and cook for a further six minutes on the under side. This will produce a bird whose flesh is pink but not too rare. Remove from the heat, arrange on a large plate and spoon over the chilli sauce.

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