Despite the fact I don’t like chicken that much, I do have a special fondness for quails, maybe because they’re small and cute. In this recipe I wrap them in prosciutto to protect the flesh and give them a lovely salty and crispy coat.
- 6 de-boned quails, wing tips off (ask your butcher if you can keep all of the bones)
- 75 ml marsala
- 500 ml chicken stock
- 170 g ricotta
- 12 small sage leaves, finely sliced
- 1 lemon, zested, plus a squeeze of lemon juice
- river salt and black pepper
- 18 green olives, pitted
- 6 long slices prosciutto
- olive oil
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Preheat oven to 200°C. Hopefully you have a nice pile of bones from your butcher (if not, you’ll have to rely on the flavour of the chicken stock). Place the bones on a baking tray and roast for 20 minutes. Transfer bones to a saucepan, making sure you scrape the tray nicely to get all the tasty residual meat scraps. Place the pan on high heat, add the marsala and reduce for a couple of minutes. Add the chicken stock, bring up to just boiling point, then turn it down to a low simmer. Simmer for 1–1 ½ hours, until reduced by about half. Skim the scum from the surface as necessary.
Place the ricotta in a bowl with the sage and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 200°C.
Spread 1 quail out on a board, skin-side down. Lightly season the flesh and then place a spoonful of the ricotta mix right in the middle of the bird in between the breast. Spread it gently so it runs in a line from top to bottom. Place three olives along the top of the mixture. Gently fold the bird over so the two edges meat.
Lay a slice of prosciutto down, give it a little splash of oil and then carefully place a quail in the middle of the slice, breast-side up. Using the edges of the prosciutto, coming under the little wing bits, wrap the bird up. Repeat with the remaining quails, filling and prosciutto.
Lightly oil a large baking tray and arrange the birds on it skin-side up and not too close together. Add another drizzle of oil and a few turns of pepper. Bake for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, strain the sauce into clean saucepan, add a splash of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Whisk to combine and season with a nice amount of salt.
Remove tray from oven, cover with foil and rest in a warm place for 3 minutes.
When ready to serve, cut two quails in half lengthways to show off their pretty stuffing, then arrange on a large warmed platter with the whole birds. Add any tray juices to your sauce, pour over and eat quickly before the little birds get cold.
• Serve with soft polenta or my Guanciale with cabbage, white beans, rosemary and parsley recipe.
Photography by Benito Martin
Styling by Jerrie-Joy Redman-Lloyd
Platter from Mud Australia
Stone from Onsite Supply & Design