Quail are one of the tastiest and juiciest of the small game birds. You will find them in most good butchers.
Serves 4 (divides in half or doubles easily)
4 quail on the bone
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 stick of celery, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
4 leaves of sage, finely chopped
Zest of half a lemon
8 streaky rashers (optional)
4 stems of thyme
200ml white wine
1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.
2. Season the quail inside and out with salt and black pepper.
3. Heat the olive oil in a large oven-proof casserole over gentle heat. Add the onions, celery and carrot and cook until they are lightly browned (about 5-8 minutes).
4. When the vegetables are done, put them with the breadcrumbs in a bowl. Add the sage and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper and mix with clean hands or a fork. Fill each quail with the stuffing.
5. If you are using the bacon, wrap two pieces of streaky bacon around each quail and tuck it under (use a cocktail stick to secure if you need to, but take it out before serving). Place a stem of thyme on each quail. Place the quail in the casserole with the white wine. Bake for 40 minutes or until the birds are golden and the juices run clear – do this by puncturing the thickest part of the bird with a fork. If they are not done, put the quail back into the oven for another 5 minutes and check again.
6. Cover the quail loosely with foil and let them rest for 5-10 minutes. Serve with the juice from the pan.