Quail are prized for its incredibly succulent meat. Given their small size, a slow-cooked tenderness can be achieved in shorter time.






Skill level

Average: 5 (1 vote)


  • 6 quails (about 180 g/6½ oz each)
  • sea salt
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 40 g (1½ oz) unsalted butter
  • 50 g (1¾ oz) thickly cut smoked pancetta, diced
  • 1 brown onion, finely diced
  • 4 small fresh or dried bay leaves
  • ¼ lemon, halved
  • 90 g (3 oz) dried olives, halved and pitted
  • 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) Marsala
  • 250 ml (8½ fl oz/1 cup) chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • soft polenta or crusty bread, to serve

Cook's notes

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.


  1. Remove the breastbones and cut each bird into four pieces: two thighs with the bone in and two breasts. If you do not want to cut the bird yourself, ask your butcher to do it for you. Wash the quail pieces and pat dry, then season with salt.
  2. Place the olive oil and butter in a frying pan that is large enough to fit all the pieces of quail in a single layer and heat over medium–high heat. Once the butter has melted, add the quail pieces (in batches if needed) and sear for about 1 minute on each side, turning them over with tongs. They will brown quickly. Transfer to a baking dish and cover with foil to keep warm. Reduce the heat to medium, and scrape up any pieces of meat or skin stuck to the base of the pan, leaving them in the pan.
  3. Add the pancetta, onion, bay leaves, lemon and olives to the pan and cook over medium–low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until the onion is translucent and the fat on the pancetta has rendered. Add the Marsala and turn up the heat. Let it bubble away for 3–4 minutes until most of the Marsala has evaporated, then add the chicken stock and reduce the heat to medium. Bring to a simmer, then return the quail pieces to the pan and reduce the heat to medium–low. Cover and cook for 8–10 minutes, then check the meat for readiness – it should be very tender and cooked through. Turn up the heat briefly if there is too much liquid in the pan to allow it to reduce slightly.
  4. Taste and add some salt and pepper if needed. Serve with plenty of soft polenta or crusty bread.


Recipe and images from Adriatico by Paola Bacchia, Smith Street Books, RRP $55.00