If you haven’t tried quail, you’re in for a treat. If you’re an old hand, you know how good these little birds are, like tiny, tasty chickens. Here, I’ve cooked them in a classic creamy French sauce with white wine, tarragon and grapes.
It’s one I tested for my latest game class at Mrs Portly’s Kitchen and although my students will be going home with a different recipe this time (for reasons I won’t bore you with) it’s a lovely dish and perfect for a quick but classy supper for two.
A couple of things to bear in mind – look out for jumbo quail or you’ll have a starter rather than a main course. I’m lucky to have Mallard Moat Quail almost on my doorstep but you can buy them online from the likes of the Wild Meat Company. If you can’t source them you might prefer chicken. Take a look at Delia’s recipe, from her book One Is Fun, to which I owe a debt of gratitude.
Also, the grapes in the sauce should, according to French tradition, be peeled. I don’t mind stuffing a mushroom but life’s too short to be peeling grapes. It’s an exercise in futility. Perfectionists, however, might like to know that it’s a task made marginally easier by plunging the grapes into hot water for 60 seconds.
2 or 3 jumbo quail, spatchocked and split in half down the backbone
Salt and pepper
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp oil
1 heaped tbsp fresh tarragon leaves, picked from the stems, plus more to garnish
150ml dry white wine
60ml double cream
100g green grapes, halved
Season the birds will salt and pepper. Put a deep frying pan on a medium-high heat, melt the butter with the oil and brown the birds skin side down. Turn and seal the other side. Remove to a plate.
In the same pan, fry the onions until softened. Return the quail portions, skin side up, add the tarragon and wine, cover tightly and cook on the gentlest of simmers for 15-20 minutes, or until the birds are tender. Remove them from the pan and keep warm while you finish the sauce.
Increase the heat and let it bubble until it’s more syrupy, then add the cream and grapes and reduce again until it’s thickened to your liking. Check the seasoning, put the birds back in and sprinkle with the reserved tarragon. Serve from the pan or dish up, two portions per person, onto warmed plates. We ate our quail with peas and tiny cubes of sautéed potatoes.