This is a gorgeous, sticky, hands-on operation – one for the kitchen roll, as opposed to the best napkins. Introduce the birds to their marinade the day before you need them ideally; on the day, all you need do is get the quails out of the fridge and into the oven. Quails are quite forgiving birds, so don’t be afraid to give them another 5 minutes to crisp up if that’s what they need. They’re small, so you need at least two each, though a very hungry person could probably demolish three.

James Ramsden

Spiced Quail with Herby Couscous and Yoghurt
Spiced Quail with Herby Couscous and Yoghurt

Serves 6
Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 12–18 quails
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp hot smoked paprika
  • a pinch of ground cloves
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed to a paste
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • juice of 1 lemon

For the couscous

  • 2 large onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 100g/3½oz/generous ½ cup sultanas (golden raisins)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 litre/1¾ pints/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 500g/1lb 2oz/scant 3 cups couscous
  • a good handful of herbs – parsley, coriander
  • and chives
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon

To serve

  • lemon wedges
  • 200g/7oz/generous ¾ cup Greek-style yogurt

Method

1. Find a big bowl or two for the quails. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, then add the spices and cook for a minute or so, stirring continuously. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds, then remove from the heat and tip into a mixing bowl.

2. Add the honey and lemon juice, along with a good pinch of salt. Leave until completely cool, then rub all over the birds to marinate for as long as you can manage.

3. As the base for the couscous, heat a good slug of oil in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat and add the onions.

4. Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring regularly, until sweet and sticky. Add the garlic and sultanas and season with salt and pepper. Cook for a further minute, then take off the heat.

5. Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas mark 7. Put the birds in a large roasting pan, with a little space between them. Spoon over any extra marinade that might be lurking in the bottom of the mixing bowl, then roast the quails for 20 minutes, resting for a further 5-10 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, bring the stock to a boil. Stir the couscous through the onion mixture, then pour the stock over the couscous until just covering. Stir briefly, then cover with a tea towel and leave for 5 minutes. Roughly chop the herbs and stir through the couscous, along with the lemon juice and zest and a good pinch of salt.

7. Serve the quails and couscous with a lemon wedge and a dollop of yogurt.

Adapted from Do-Ahead Dinners by James Ramsden (Pavilion)