Roast Quail Wrapped in Pancetta and Vine Leaves with Grape Confit

I am a self-confessed quail convert, having shunned them for years as being undersized and fiddly. I was wrong. They are plump and meaty and, because they are self-contained, they are one of the easiest birds to cook and serve. Vine leaves, which impart a lovely flavour, are available in some stores and specialist food shops, but if you can't find them, you can use foil loosely crumpled around each quail instead.

Serves 4

This recipe is taken from How to Cook Book Two. It has also appeared in Sainsbury’s Magazine (Guide to Poultry and Game Cookery).

Roast Quail Wrapped in Pancetta and Vine Leaves with Grape Confit
 8 quail
 3 oz (75 g) sliced pancetta, preferably smoked
 16 fresh vine leaves or 1 x 227 g pack preserved vine leaves in brine
 a little olive oil
 salt and freshly milled black pepper
For the grape confit:
 6 oz (175 g) red or black seedless grapes, halved
 1 level teaspoon golden granulated sugar
 3 tablespoons red wine
 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
 Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 7, 425°F (220°C).
You will also need a baking tray measuring 10 x 14 inches (25.5 x 35 cm), and some string.


First of all make the grape confit by dissolving the sugar in the wine and wine vinegar, then add the grapes and let them simmer very gently, without a lid, for 40 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced to a syrup.

If you are using fresh vine leaves, blanch them by dipping them in boiling water for a few seconds until they go limp, then pat them dry and remove the stalks. If you have preserved vine leaves, rinse them under the tap and pat them dry. Now wipe the quail with kitchen paper and remove any trussing string, then rub them with olive oil and season.

Next, cover the breasts with the pancetta, dividing it equally between them. Now sit each quail on a vine leaf, with the legs pointing towards the stalk end, and wrap the leaf up each side, then put another leaf over the breast and tuck it in underneath the quail. 

Now tie each quail with a piece of string to keep the leaves in place, then lay them on the baking tray and cook on a high shelf of the oven for 15 minutes.

After that, take them out, untie the string and, holding the quail in a cloth, unpeel the top leaf (leaving the second leaf and pancetta intact). Now return the quail to the oven to brown and crisp, which will take another 15 minutes. 

When you've removed them from the oven, let them rest for about 10 minutes before serving with the grape confit.

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