The quail is a small migratory game bird from the same family as the partridge, found all over Europe, Africa and Asia and much prized for its delicate flesh. There are many species of quail, but the most readily available, coturnix vulgaris or common quail, is approximately 7-inches long and weighs between 5 and 6 ounces. It is reddish-brown in colour, with white and yellow markings.
The quail cannot live in extreme climates, and so migrates to India and Africa during September and October, coming back to Europe for the spring and summer. It is when they land on the Mediterranean coast, exhausted from flying thousands of miles without stop-ping, that they are caught alive and fattened in cages for consumption then exported to other parts of the world.
Quails used to nest in the British Isles and were hunted for sport but, when their numbers decreased drastically, they came under Government protection and can now no longer be hunted. It has, however, been found possible to domesticate certain breeds of quail, notably the Japanese quail, and as a result they are now available throughout the year.
Unlike other game birds, quail docs not benefit from hanging and must be eaten within 24 hours of being killed.
Quail is best cooked by roasting, but it may also be prepared in any way suitable for PARTRIDGE, allowing between 1 and 2 birds per person.
To roast quails preheat the oven to hot 425CF (Gas Mark 7, 220°C). Either baste them frequently with melted butter or cover them with streaky bacon and roast for 20 to 25 minutes or until the flesh is tender when pierced with the point of a sharp knife and the juices run clear.
Quails are also prized for their eggs, which have a very delicate flavour and a smooth, creamy consistency. Quail eggs are pale yellow and spotted with dark brown markings. They are generally eaten hard-boiled.