8 quails (2 per person)
1 tbsp olive oil
75ml sherry or white wine
(sh) For the marinade
1 tbsp olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp crushed black pepper
1. Marinate the quails for at least 3 or 4 hours before eating them. Simply combine all the marinade ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix with the birds before popping the whole lot into the fridge, covered.
2. Preheat the oven to its highest setting when you are ready to eat. Heat a heavy-based frying pan on the hob and when wisps of smoke appear add the butter and olive oil. As soon as they are fizzing away nicely, brown the quails on the skinside and transfer them to a roasting tray large enough for them to sit in a single layer. Keep the frying pan to hand but remove it from the heat.
3. Add all the marinade to the roasting tin. Transfer the quails to the oven for 20 minutes or until the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced with a skewer.
4. While the birds are cooking, cut the pomegranate in half and remove the red seeds. The easiest way to do this is to hold the fruit over a bowl and gently bash the skin with the back of a spoon.
5. Remove the quails from the oven and drain the cooking juice into the frying pan. Put over a high heat, then as soon as it bubbles add the sherry or wine. It might flambé a little but don’t worry if it doesn’t, the heat will work on the alcohol all the same. Throw in the pomegranate seeds. When the sauce look glossy, pour over the quails and serve. I like this with a really simple leaf salad like chicory or watercress, some bread and a blob of thick, Greek-style yogurt on the side.
- Everyone loves game with fruit but by the tail-end of winter, pheasants and partridges are thin on the ground (or, worse still, as tough as old boots). Quail is cheating since it is really a farmed bird, but it has a lovely flavour and is quick to cook. This dish has its roots in the Middle East where fish or poultry is sometimes braised with a sauce made from pomegranates and walnuts. This version is lighter and quicker.
- Pick a cherry-flavoured, light Pinot Noir for a well-balanced wine match.