Quail, pine mushrooms, chestnuts and polenta

Quail, pine mushrooms, chestnuts and polenta

My Italian Kitchen
Chris Middleton

This dish takes me back to my two years spent living in La Rocca, a small town in Tuscany. When I created the dish, I was inspired by the Bosco (the forest) near La Rocca, where we would go hunting for mushrooms and chestnuts. I wanted to showcase the story behind this dish, from foraging and hunting for your ingredients, to going home and creating a delicious meal using the freshest of produce.


Quantity Ingredient
6 quail
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 leek, roughly chopped, white part only
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, 1 crushed and 1 sliced
200ml sherry
1 litre chicken stock
450g chestnuts, scored
500ml milk
15g salted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons polenta
sea salt flakes
4 slices prosciutto, (about 120 g)
160g pine mushrooms, sliced
3 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
wood sorrel, to garnish
micro herbs, to garnish


  1. Take the breasts and legs off the quail (reserving the carcasses) and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Set aside.
  2. Pour 1 tablespoon of the olive oil into a saucepan over a high heat. Add the reserved quail carcasses and fry until browned. Add the carrot, leek, onion and crushed garlic, and continue to cook until brown, about 5–7 minutes. Add the sherry and deglaze the pan. Add the stock and 125 ml of water, and allow to boil until reduced by half. Remove from the heat, strain, return to the heat and allow to simmer until thickened and reduced. Set aside, keeping warm.
  3. Meanwhile, place the chestnuts on a plate in a single layer in a microwave and cook on high for approximately 2–3 minutes until the skins have opened up. Remove from the microwave, peel and place in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the milk and butter and bring to the boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer gently until softened, about 40 minutes.
  4. Transfer the chestnuts and most of the milk to a food processor and pulse to a smooth purée. Add a little more milk if required. Set aside, keeping warm.
  5. Mix the polenta and 185 ml of water in a saucepan and cook over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes until soft. Remove from the heat.
  6. Set a lightly greased crêpe pan over a medium heat. Divide the cooked polenta into six portions. Place one portion in the pan and, using a wet knife or small spatula, spread thinly over the pan. Allow to cook, turning, until crispy on both sides, about 7–8 minutes. Remove from the pan, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and set aside, keeping warm. Repeat with the remaining polenta.
  7. Drizzle the quail breasts and legs with olive oil. Place a chargrill pan over a high heat, add the quail, skin side down and fry until char lines appear, about 2 minutes. Turn and fry until cooked through, about another 1–2 minutes. Remove from the chargrill pan and set aside to rest.
  8. Place a frying pan over a medium heat. Once hot, add the prosciutto slices and cook until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove them from the frying pan, drain on paper towel, then place them in a food processor and pulse to a crumb. Set aside.
  9. Meanwhile, place 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the frying pan and increase the heat to high. Add the pine mushrooms, the sliced garlic and the thyme, and cook until browned, about 3 minutes. Season and set aside.
  10. To serve, place some chestnut purée on each plate. Add the charred quail breasts and legs, a polenta crisp and some mushrooms. Drizzle with the sauce and sprinkle with prosciutto crumbs. Garnish with wood sorrel and micro herbs, and season with salt and pepper.


  • Wood sorrel should be available from most good fruit shops. You can always ask for it. For this meal it’s not just an attractive garnish – it brings a welcome acidity to the whole dish.
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