Roast quail stuffed with rice and nuts

Roast quail stuffed with rice and nuts

Mark Roper

Rice and nuts are a much-loved combination throughout the Middle East. Toasted almonds and pine nuts are used to add a lovely crunchy garnish to all kinds of rice dishes, or they are mixed into rice stuffings, and flavoured with a little minced lamb and spices such as cinnamon and allspice.

This particular recipe is a simple one that Greg uses routinely as a stuffing for roast chicken. It is also delicious as a stuffing for little whole quail.


Quantity Ingredient
1600g jumbo quail
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper


Quantity Ingredient
100ml olive oil
1 small purple onion, finely diced
250g medium-grain rice
400ml water or light stock
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
40g flaked almonds
40g pine nuts
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
20g pistachio slivers
1 tablespoon dried rosebuds, roughly broken (optional)

To serve

Quantity Ingredient
plain yoghurt
or Tahini–yoghurt sauce
mixed green salad
Eggplant jam, (optional)


  1. To make the stuffing, heat a third of the olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan and gently fry the onion until it softens and turns a light golden colour. Add the rice to the pan and stir well to coat all the grains. Now pour on enough of the stock or water to cover the rice by two fingers’ width. Add the spices, salt and the bay leaves, cover the pan and cook on a very low heat for 20 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender.
  2. While the rice is cooking, fry the almonds and pine nuts in the remaining olive oil until golden brown. The almonds burn very easily, so stir them constantly.
  3. When the rice is cooked, tip it out into a mixing bowl, remove the bay leaves, and fork it through with the extra virgin olive oil. Then mix in the fried nuts, pistachios and rosebuds (if using) and leave to cool down before you stuff the quail.
  4. When you are ready to cook the quail, preheat the oven to 180°C.
  5. Stuff each bird with 2–3 tablespoons of the stuffing – you should pack it in reasonably tightly. Secure the skin at the opening with a toothpick and tie the legs together over the parson’s nose.
  6. Pour a little olive oil into a large roasting tin and brush the rest over the birds. Strip the rosemary needles from the twigs and scatter over the birds, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put the tin in the centre of the oven and cook for 10 minutes. Then pull the birds out of the oven, baste with the pan juices and return to the oven cook for a further 10 minutes.
  7. Cover the birds with foil and let them rest for a good 5 minutes before you serve them with a dollop of plain yoghurt or a nutty tahini–yoghurt sauce and a nice mixed green salad. These little birds are also delicious accompanied by a big blob of sticky eggplant jam.
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