Tasty little quails with a start to finish cooking time is 35 minutes.
The day before you want to cook them, take 8 quail out of the freezer. Sounds posh doesn’t it? It’s not! My 8 quail came in boxes of 4 from Lidl. £4.99 a box. Bargain.
The evening before you want to cook them, crush 2 cloves of garlic with 8 juniper berries, a teaspoon of fennel seed, some chilli flakes, sea salt, black pepper, a teaspoon of sugar and olive oil.
Take each quail and with the breastbone uppermost, use sharp scissors, clean secateurs or a pair of poultry scissors and snip down both sides of the breast bone and take it out. Lay each quail on the work surface and press down on the breast with the heel of the hand to snap the bones at the end. Now cover with the marinade and leave overnight.
When you are ready, prepare either a wide shallow pan which has a close fitting lid, or a small roasting pan – and add golden rape seed oil. Fry each quail, probably best to do it in pairs rather than the whole flock at once, so they are browned on all sides. Remove onto a plate until they are all finished.
Then add two chopped shallots and either some chopped pancetta, bacon or chorizo. Sweat these off gently then turn up the heat and return the quail to the pan and add about 100ml Oloroso Sherry (or you could use Vermouth) – but the sherry is the best really. Now let the liquid bubble for 3 minutes then put in a pre-heated oven for no more than 15 minutes. Then take out of the oven and remove the quail to a warm plate and cover loosely.
Return the pan to the heat and scrape up all the bits. Add about 100ml chicken stock and bring to the boil, check the seasoning, then transfer to a jug and serve the birds – one per person.
You could serve them on their own with good bread, or polenta, and a green vegetable or a salad. Or with roasted little potatoes and celeriac. Which is what we are having on Christmas Eve.