Quail with pumpkin tofu

Quail with pumpkin tofu

Stuart Scott

A little bird like a quail is quite delicate in flavour and texture. The humble pumpkin in tofu form is a sensitive partner.



  1. Begin this recipe one day in advance. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Pass 1 kilogram belly-side pork skins over a gas flame to burn any bristle. Trim all of the fat from the skins – you need 200 grams pork skins. Put the trimmed pork skins in a small casserole dish with 1 small diced onion, 1 small diced carrot, 1 diced celery stalk, 2 fresh bay leaves and 1 teaspoon white peppercorns. Fill with water, cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook in the oven for 3 hours, or until the skins are completely soft . The skins should be soft and yielding without falling apart when pressed between the fingertips and thumb. Remove the skins from the liquid and lay them on cloth-lined trays until slightly cool. Using a tablespoon, scrape the remainder of the fat from the skins. Line dehydrator trays with plastic wrap. Place the skins on the trays and dry in a food dehydrator at 50°C for 24 hours, or until dried and hard.
  2. Scrape any remaining soft fat from the skins. Heat 500 millilitres vegetable oil to 190ºC. Deep-fry the dried skins in batches until they puff like a prawn cracker. Drain well on paper towels and season with Murray River pink salt. Allow to cool.
  3. Lay 5 quails on a workbench and work with one at a time. Remove the wing tips from each quail and separate the breasts from the body, leaving them on the crown. To make the brine, mix together 300 grams table salt, 150 grams brown sugar and 2.5 litres water until the salt and sugar dissolve. Soak the quail breasts in the brine and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  4. To make the gastrique, heat a saucepan over a moderate heat. Coat the base of the pan with 200 grams caster sugar. Let the sugar melt and caramelise until it becomes a rich golden colour, being careful that it doesn’t burn. Add 200 millilitres sherry vinegar and let it come to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer briefly until the caramel is combined. Remove the pan from the heat and keep the gastrique at room temperature until required.
  5. Remove the quails from the brine and rinse thoroughly under running water to remove the excess brine. Pat dry. Steam them, uncovered, in a combi steam oven at 54°C for 40 minutes. Place on a tray and leave, uncovered, in the refrigerator for 12 hours so that the skin dries out, brushing with the gastrique once every 2 hours. The breasts should be evenly coated in the syrup.
  6. To make the pumpkin tofu, roughly chop 1 large Japanese pumpkin, discarding the seeds and skin. Juice the pumpkin and strain through a chinoise. Spray a 30 × 20 centimetre tray with oil spray and line with plastic wrap. Crack 16 eggs into a large bowl and add the pumpkin juice, 100 millilitres pouring cream, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, ½ teaspoon quatre épices (see note) and ½ teaspoon table salt. Whisk well and pass through a fine sieve. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the prepared tray, double wrap with plastic wrap and steam in a combi steam oven at 76°C for 45 minutes, or until set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  7. Gently flip the cold ‘tofu’ onto a cutting board and cut it into 6 × 2 centimetre bars. Place on a tray and keep refrigerated until required.
  8. To make the pickling liquid for the onion cups, combine 360 millilitres water, 240 millilitres white wine vinegar, 100 grams caster sugar, 2 teaspoons black peppercorns, ½ teaspoon cloves, 1 fresh bay leaf and ½ bunch dill in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Once the liquid has boiled, pour it into a metal tray and chill it quickly in a blast chiller until it reaches 4ºC.
  9. Peel 10 golf ball-sized pickling onions. Seal the onions in a sous-vide bag with 200 millilitres of the pickling liquid (reserving the rest of the pickling liquid) and compress with moderate pressure. Steam in a combi steam oven at 85ºC for 14 minutes. Remove from the water bath and chill them quickly in an ice bath. Remove the onions from the bag, cut them in half and peel the segments apart to make little cups.
  10. Preheat the oven to 100°C. Bring the quails to room temperature. Heat 1 litre canola oil to 160°C in a deep saucepan. Fry the birds individually until they become dark golden, then transfer to a baking tray and warm in the oven for 10 minutes. Carve the breasts from the bone and keep warm. Reheat the ‘tofu’ in a combi steam oven at 60°C for 15 minutes. Warm the onion cups in a little butter and chicken stock, garnish with some freshly chopped chives and a grind of pepper.
  11. To serve, place a baton of pumpkin tofu on each plate and lay a quail breast on each. Garnish with some onion cups and a good piece of pork crackling.

Quatre épices

  • Blend 10 grams each of whole cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg in a spice grinder until pulverised to a powder. Mix with 10 grams ground ginger and 20 grams ground white pepper. Reserve in an airtight container until required.

    Makes 60 grams
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