Casual dining recipes: Lemon-roasted quail, lentil and quinoa salad, and passion fruit possets

Black lentils and red quinoa. Picture: Miriam Kato

Black lentils and red quinoa. Picture: Miriam Kato - Credit: Archant

As the longest day approaches, Frances is thinking of flexible desserts, salads and poultry dishes that can be prepared in advance and served either hot or cold, at late lunches or moonlit dinners.

Roasted quail. Picture: Stu Spivack

Roasted quail. Picture: Stu Spivack - Credit: Archant

As we move towards mid-summer, it feels as if it is time for casual dining rather than the more formal style of entertaining we might enjoy during the cooler months.

I prefer dishes that I can prepare in advance to serve inside or out, whenever suits the weather, perhaps a late Iberian-style lunch around 4 – 5 pm, or a moonlit dinner.

When meal times are this flexible, it is useful to have a repertoire of dishes that are as good cold as they are hot, and for these I particularly like poultry, whether chicken thighs, duck legs, squab or quails.

Fried, pot-roasted or plain roasted, the meat will have plenty of flavour, especially when cooked on the bone, even when served cold.

Frances Bissell's passion fruit possets

Frances Bissell's passion fruit possets - Credit: Archant

If your preference is piscine, a whole fish can be steamed or poached and left to cool, after being carefully covered, loosely, but completely, with foil, to protect it.

Ideally, for maximum flavour the fish should be served at room temperature, which it will reach about two to three hours after cooking if it is a large fish, say about 2 kilos.

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But if you cannot serve it then, it should, of course, be refrigerated. Remove from the fridge about 30 minutes or so before serving.

Accompaniments that will not wilt or go soggy are ideal for casual entertaining, and grains and pulses fill the bill even better than pasta.

Rice, wild rice, bulgur wheat, lentils, couscous (yes, a pasta but it behaves more like a grain) and quinoa all make delicious, yet satisfying dishes, to serve hot, warm or cold as salads.

A selection of premium ice creams, sorbets and fresh fruit is the easiest dessert to offer at the end of a casual summer meal, but if you want to take a little more trouble, I recommend jellies, custards, fools and similar pots of deliciousness, which, of course, need to be refrigerated as soon as possible after cooking and cooling.

They can be made in advance, and they will be greeted with exclamations of delight, making all your efforts worthwhile.

Spiced lemon-roasted quail (serves 6)


6 quails

1 large lemon

1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon each freshly ground black pepper, ground coriander and cumin

1/2 teaspoon each ground cardamom, cloves and cinnamon

150 ml chicken stock, white wine or water


Cut the wing tips from the birds, and wipe them thoroughly, inside and out.

Shave 6 spirals of lemon zest and put inside the birds. Halve the lemon and rub lemon juice all over the birds.

Cut up the lemon and put a piece inside each bird.

Brush with olive oil, and then dust with the spice mixture, inside and out.

Brown the birds all over in a lidded frying pan or shallow casserole. Remove them while you deglaze the pan with the liquid, scraping up any residue.

Put the birds back, cover the pan, and cook on top of the stove or in a preheated oven at 180 C/350 F, gas mark 4 for 20- 25 minutes.

Remove and allow to cool in a shallow dish, pouring any cooking juices over them, which will set to a jelly.

Cook’s note: chicken thighs and thick salmon fillets also like this spice and lemon mixture.

Quinoa and lentil salad with mint and sherry vinaigrette (serves 6)


200 g Puy or Umbrian lentils

100 g quinoa

Extra virgin olive oil

Sherry vinegar

Mint leaves, shredded or chopped

Basil or coriander leaves, shredded or chopped

6 to 8 spring onions, trimmed and chopped, or

3 shallots, peeled and chopped (both optional)

2 tablespoons black olives

1 – 2 tablespoons sultanas

1 – 2 tablespoons toasted flaked almonds

Seasoning Method:

Cook the pulses and grains, separately in water; the lentils in at least twice their volume; the quinoa in 2 to 3 times its volume.

Drain and mix them, and stir in to taste, olive oil and vinegar, and then add the herbs, as much, or as little, as you like, the onion, if using it, olives, sultanas and almonds, and some seasoning.

Cook’s note: use this as a blue-print salad recipe and add your own aromatics and vegetables.

Passion fruit posset (serves 6)


3 passion fruit

Caster sugar - see recipe

300ml double cream


Halve the passion fruit and scoop the seeds and jelly into a measuring jug.

Add 1 tablespoon water, as this helps to loosen the seeds.

Pour into a small saucepan and add an equal volume of sugar.

Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, bring to the boil and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Set aside a couple of teaspoons of the syrup for garnish.

Pour the cream into a jug and sieve the passion fruit syrup into the cream, stirring all the while.

The cream will thicken considerably as the acid goes to work but it will remain smooth.

Spoon into shot glasses or custard cups, top with a little of the syrup and a few seeds, then chill until required.

These are very good with a crisp almond biscuit or a shortbread finger.

Cook’s note: traditionally lemons were used for this delicate dessert; make up the syrup in exactly the same way.