Portuguese-marinated quail

Portuguese-marinated quail

New Middle Eastern Food
4 as part of a mezze selection
Mark Roper

This is a Portuguese-inspired twice-marinated and twice-cooked quail dish. The birds are rubbed with a spicy paste and then cooked in a tangy, hot–sour beer marinade. They are left in the marinade for up to three days, and once cooked they require only a quick grilling or frying to turn their skin a delightful golden red.


Quantity Ingredient
4 whole quail
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon crushed cumin seeds
1 tablespoon olive oil
200ml beer
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
2 long red chillies, cut into thirds
4 small sprigs oregano
4 baby turnips, brushed and halved
100g cooked chickpeas
300ml good-quality chicken stock
150ml olive oil, for frying
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 purple salad onion, very finely sliced
oregano flowers, to garnish (optional)


  1. Trim the quail of necks and wing tips. Split down the backbone with a heavy knife and clean the insides. Wash and pat dry.
  2. Pound the garlic with the salt to a smooth light paste, then pound in the paprika and cumin seeds for a few more minutes so you have a thick, stiff paste. Loosen the paste with 1 tablespoon oil and rub thoroughly all over the quail.
  3. In a bowl, mix together the beer and vinegars. Marinate the quail in this mixture overnight in the refrigerator.
  4. Place the quail and marinade into a heavy pot and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, add the chillies and oregano and cook gently for 12 minutes. Remove the quail and drain it on paper towel.
  5. Reduce the marinade by two-thirds until thick and syrupy, then pour it over the quail. Cover the quail and marinade with plastic wrap and allow to cool completely. Refrigerate until you are ready to cook. You can do this up to 3 days ahead of time.
  6. When ready to cook, remove the quail from the marinade and set aside. Tip the marinade ingredients into a saucepan and add the baby turnips, chickpeas and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 12 minutes, or until the turnips are tender.
  7. Grill the quails on a griddle or barbecue, or cook them under the griller for 1 1/2–2 minutes on each side. Alternatively, pat them dry, dust in paprika flour (100 g flour to 1 teaspoon sweet paprika) and deep-fry until crisp (about 1 minute in 200°C oil). To shallow-fry, heat about 2 cm of oil in a frying pan and fry, skin side down, for about a minute on each side, or until golden brown. Season lightly. To serve, tip the simmering marinade into a warm serving bowl and arrange the quail on top. Garnish with purple onion rings and oregano flowers, if using.
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