One of the smallest breeds of speciality poultry available, quail are brown or beige in colour and are found throughout Europe.
Uses: Serve one as a starter or two as a main course per person. Quail are best baked in the oven, and are traditionally served with game chips (thinly sliced deep-fried potatoes) and redcurrant jelly. Alternatively, whole birds can also be spatchcocked and grilled or barbecued.
Spatchcocking is a distortion of an 18th century Irish term for providing an unexpected guest with a quick meal, where a young chicken was dispatched, split and fried or grilled. The term has since come to define the preparation and cooking method. They can then be marinated before cooking to tenderise the meat and enhance the flavour. Try either of the following combinations: cranberry juice, red wine and juniper berries or orange juice with grated lemon rind and crushed peppercorns.
To store: Keep refrigerated below 4°C. Keep covered and store at the bottom of the fridge. Once opened, consume within 2 days. Do not exceed the use-by date. Quail can be frozen in a four star food freezer or three star frozen food compartment at -18°C or colder. Use within one month. Defrost fully in the fridge before use and do not refreeze once thawed. Wash all work surfaces, chopping boards, utensils and hands thoroughly after touching raw meat.
To prepare: Quail are quite lean and should be basted during cooking to prevent them from drying out. They can also be wrapped in streaky bacon before roasting. To spatchcock a quail, remove any trussing bands and place breast-side down on a chopping board. Using a sharp knife, cut through the centre of the underside of the bird. Turn the quail over and using the heel of the hand, press along the breast bone to flatten the bird. To hold the spatchcocked bird in place, push 2 small bamboo skewers, 1 from each side, diagonally through the leg, breast and wing.
To cook: For best results, bake in the oven, gently brush the quail with a little melted butter or oil. Place in a roasting tray in the centre of a preheated oven at 200°C, gas mark 6 for 25 minutes, basting occasionally. Check that the quail is cooked by piercing the thickest part of the thigh with a skewer. The quail is cooked when the juices run clear and there is no pink meat. Allow to stand for 5 minutes in a warm place before serving. Carve as you would a chicken.
To grill or barbecue gently brush the spatchcock quail with a little melted butter or oil. Place under a preheated medium grill or on a preheated barbecue for 15-20 minutes, turning frequently. Check that the quail is cooked by piercing the thickest part of the thigh with a skewer, take extra care when barbecuing. The quail is cooked when the juices run clear and there is no pink meat. Allow to stand for 5 minutes in a warm place before serving. Remove the skewers before carving. Cool any leftovers to room temperature, refrigerate within 2 hours and consume within 2 days.