How to Cook Quail (With Recipes)
Quail are one of the smallest of all the game birds. They are so small in fact that many cooks are perhaps puzzled as to how they can reasonably be made in to a meal and avoid purchasing and preparing them for this reason. As an approximate guideline, one quail should be allowed per person as a starter or appetizer and two (or even three!) for a main course dish. The recipes on this page have all been prepared with just one quail. This is simply for demonstration purposes. The quantities should of course be multiplied to suit your particular requirements in each instance.
Quail are deemed to be an endangered species in some countries and are often farmed for sale, rather than being truly wild game..
Preparing Quail for Cooking
The quail featured on this page were all bought cleaned, prepared and frozen. This does not mean, however, that they are oven ready or ready to be prepared in any other way. It is imperative firstly that the quail be allowed to thaw completely in a dish on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator overnight. Laying them on the bottom shelf prevents any juices which should escape from contaminating other foodstuffs. The quail should then be washed under running cold water, paying particular attention to the body cavity. It is because they are so small that quail can be difficult to clean and one of these birds was found to still contain a considerable part of the innards. Carefully poke your finger in to the bird and check for any remains which do require to be removed. Finally, pat the quail dry with some kitchen paper.
Roasted Quail, Black Pudding and Peppercorn Cream Sauce
Roasting quail is probably the most popular way of cooking them so that makes this perhaps the logical recipe with which to start. This recipe is actually fairly straightforward and basic but the combination of different tastes and textures is delicious.
1 prepared quail
1 large rasher of smoked bacon
1 slice of black (blood) pudding
1 large floury/starchy potato
8 to 10 whole black peppercorns
2 fl oz double/heavy cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly chopped parsley to garnish
Preheat your oven to 350F/180C. Wrap the bacon rasher around the main body of the quail and lay it on its back on a lightly oiled roasting tray. Bake for thirty minutes.
Peel the potato, chop it and add it to a pot of slightly salted cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer for twenty-five minutes.
Remove the quail from the oven, turn it on to its breast with cooking tongs and cover with foil to rest while the black pudding is shallow fried for five minutes each side in olive oil.
Pour the cream in to a small saucepan. Lightly crush the peppercorns in a pestle and mortar and add to the cream. Heat very gently for a couple of minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon.
Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Mash with a little butter and optional white pepper.
Scoop the potatoes on to the plate with an ice cream scoop as shown in the photo. Lay the black pudding slice on the plate, ensuring any plastic wrap around the edge has been removed. Carefully lay the bacon wrapped quail on top of the black pudding before spooning the sauce around the quail and garnishing with the chopped parsley.
Quail, Bacon and Mushroom Pie with Homemade Chips and Beans
This quail, bacon and mushroom pie is both succulent and delicious. It is served in this instance with homemade chips (similar to large French fries) and blanched green beans but is perfect served on its own for a lightish lunch or substantial snack. Try it served with some homemade sweet tomato pickle for a tasty extra twist.
2 rashers of bacon
2 small closed cup mushrooms
4oz puff pastry
3 tablespoons fresh chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Beaten egg for glazing
The first step in this recipe is to cook the quail and allow it to cool completely. This is done in exactly the same fashion as in the roasted quail recipe above by wrapping it in a rasher of bacon and roasting it in the oven for thirty minutes at 350F/180C on an oiled roasting tray. Note that the second rasher of bacon should be fried or grilled separately, also at this time. Remove the quail and bacon to a plate, cover and leave to cool for at least an hour.
When the quail is cool, put your oven back on to preheat to this time 400F/200C.Unwrap the quail and roughly chop the bacon rashers. Pull the skin off the quail and take a few minutes to pluck the flesh off particularly the breast and legs in small pieces. This is a little bit awkward (the bird being so small) but not difficult. Finely slice the mushrooms and mix the filling ingredients together.
The pie case used in this recipe is of the disposable, foil variety, available in many supermarkets. It is four inches in diameter and one inch deep. Cut your puff pastry in half and roll out the first piece in to an approximate circle just over six inches in diameter (equal to diameter + twice the height of the pie case). Lightly grease the pie case with butter and carefully shape the pastry inside. Add the quail meat, bacon and mushroom before spooning in the chicken stock. Trim the edges of pastry away.
Roll out the second piece of pastry to a circle just over four inches in diameter. Place it on top of the pie and carefully crimp the edges. Glaze with beaten egg and make a small hole in the centre with the point of a sharp knife to serve as a steam vent. Place the pie on a baking tray and bake for around forty minutes until the pastry is beautifully risen and golden.
Do not try to remove the pie from the foil case as soon as it comes out of the oven. Instead, set it aside for ten minutes to rest and cool slightly while you perhaps put the finishing touches to your accompaniments. This means it is far more likely to pop easily out of the case without breaking.
Quail and Herb Butter - Delicious on Steak...or even Toast!
It is amazing how tasty this quail and herb butter is, given that it is such a simple creation. A small amount allowed to melt on top of a fillet steak adds a beautifully gamey twist to the beef, yet it is equally appetising spread on hot toast as above. You can try this concept with a lot more than quail. The dark meat from leftover turkey or chicken legs works well, as does cooked and chopped prawn or shrimp, or why not simply try it with mixed herbs? Grating a clove of garlic in to the melting butter adds a little something extra to particularly the herb only variety. This butter will keep in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, for several days.
Ingredients (Stage One)
1 medium carrot
½ medium onion
2 tbsp chopped parsley
½ tsp black peppercorns
½ tsp salt
2 pints cold water
Method (Stage One)
Place the quail in a medium to large pot, along with the peeled and halved again onion and the washed and roughly chopped carrot. Season with the parsley, salt and peppercorns before pouring in the water. It is not absolutely essential but adding a plate next helps keep the quail submerged and allows it to cook more evenly.
Put the pot on to a high heat until the water only just begins to boil and no more. Switch off the heat, put the lid on the pot and leave it to cool completely. This will likely take three to four hours.
Ingredients (Stage Two)
Meat from the quail
2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley (approximately)
3oz unsalted butter (approximately)
Freshly ground black pepper
Method (Stage Two)
When the water is completely cool, remove the plate and use a slotted spoon to lift out the quail. Recover the pot and leave aside for the moment. As in the pie recipe above, the meat should now be carefully torn from the quail in small pieces.
Place the quail meat pieces in the bottom of a three inch ramekin. Press down gently but do not over compact. Season lightly with black pepper. Add the parsley to come within a quarter inch of the lip of the ramekin, again pressing down gently.
The butter should now be added to a small saucepan. It is difficult to judge precisely how much you are going to require but if you are short in your estimation, you can always quickly melt a little more.
Melt the butter carefully and gently, over a low heat. It is vital not to cause it to separate. A good tip here is to watch until the butter is almost but not quite melted, remove the pan from the heat and swirl it gently around to finish the job in residual heat only.
Carefully pour the butter in to the ramekin to within a hair's breadth from the top, ensuring all the parsley is covered. Leave to cool completely and begin to substantially set before carefully covering it with plastic wrap and transferring it to the refrigerator, ideally overnight.
It is important now not to forget about the pot of what is essentially game stock. Game stock has many uses, one of which is the following simple and tasty soup.
Quail Stock and Savoy Cabbage Soup
Game stock (approximately 2 pints)
3 Savoy cabbage leaves
½ medium onion
1 medium carrot
8 to 10 small closed cup mushrooms
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Begin by sieving the stock to remove all the solids from cooking the quail. Wash the pot and return the sieved stock to it.
Cut the hard core out of each of the cabbage leaves and roughly shred. Finely slice the onion and half the mushrooms. Scrape the carrot and chop in to quarter inch discs. Add them to the stock, bring to a boil and reduce the heat to simmer for thrity minutes. Taste and season as required.
Although the soup is now technically ready to serve, like many soups, this one benefits from being cooled, refrigerated and reheated for service the following day. This means that if you are serving your quail butter with perhaps a steak for main course, this soup would make the perfectly themed starter.
Casseroled Quail with Braised Savoy Cabbage and Redcurrant Sauce
Casseroling meats of many types is an excellent way of slow cooking them that they come out of the oven incredibly tender and succulent. Quail is no different but the cooking time is of course less due to their size. The lack of fat on quail means that we also have to have something in the casserole to compensate and in this instance that is the cream.
1 tbsp flour
7 (variable) button mushrooms
8 fl oz fresh chicken stock
3 fl oz double (heavy) cream
2 large Savoy cabbage leaves
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp redcurrant jelly
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put your oven on to preheat to 350F/170C.
In this recipe, it is necessary to begin by butterflying the quail. This is not difficult but care and a very sharp knife or cleaver are required. Sit the quail on its broad end on a chopping board. Hold it steady with your weaker hand. Cut straight down from the top, tracing the backbone (make sure it is the backbone and not the breastbone!)
Put the flour on a dinner plate and season. Melt one ounce only of the butter in a non-stick frying pan. Pat the quail on both sides in the flour and fry for three to four minutes each side over a medium heat until browned.
Transfer the quail to a casserole dish, laying it breast side up. Add the mushrooms, chicken stock and cream to the frying pan. Bring to a simmer. Pour in to the casserole dish to almost but not quite cover the quail. Put the lid on the dish and cook in the oven for one hour.
Cut the tough core from the centre of the Savoy cabbage leaves and shred. Add the remaining butter to a small frying pan and grate in the peeled garlic clove. Add the cabbage and season with sea salt and plenty black pepper. Sauté for three to four minutes.
Arrange the savoy cabbage on a serving plate as a bed for the quail. Place the mushrooms alongside and spoon on some of the cream sauce. The redcurrant jelly is an optional addition immediately prior to service.
Have You Ever Tried Quail?
Quail and all game is not to everyone's taste. Hopefully, however, something on this page will have inspired you to give it a try if you have never done so before. Perhaps you will at the very least sample the butter suggestion with your own combination of ingredients?
Thank you for taking the time to read this page and any comments or feedback which you have may be left below.