Quail in the woods


Colin McGurran's quail in the woods recipe should not be attempted at home, unless you have a team of sous chefs and professional cooking equipment, in which case - go for it! The dish got through to the final banquet of Great British Menu 2012, wowing with its finesse and playful approach. The result of this culinary wizardry is a whimsical ode to the quail. For a scaled down version, try the confit quail legs, black garlic purée and quail egg kebabs, as these are relatively easy to achieve at home.




Quail egg kebab

  • 6 quail eggs
  • 10g of baking powder
  • 125g of rice flour
  • 25ml of vodka
  • 250ml of sparkling water
  • iced water
  • 50g of flour

Black garlic cream

Quail sauce

Horseradish pearls

  • 300g of horseradish cream
  • 300ml of double cream

Confit leg

Foie gras parfait

Feuille de bric log

Miso glaze

Poached quail breast

  • 6 quails
  • 15g of gellan gum type F
  • 2.9g of gellan LT100
  • vegetable oil


  • Thermomix TM31
  • Sous vide or water bath
  • Muslin cloth
  • Sous vide bags
  • Skewers
  • Pipettes
  • Liquid nitrogen
  • Large pressure cooker


Start with the foie gras parfait. Add the shallots, garlic and thyme to a medium saucepan pan with the Madeira, ruby port, white port and brandy. Coat and submerge the foie gras in the pan, cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for 24 hours
Remove the foie gras from the pan and set aside. Place the liquid in a pan over a medium-high heat, bring to a gentle boil and reduce until you have a thin, syrupy consistency
Stir every couple of minutes to ensure the contents of the pan do not burn during the reduction process. Remove from the heat, remove the thyme and reserve the reduction
Preheat a water bath to 50°C. Cut the foie gras into pieces roughly the size of the chicken livers and place the livers, foie gras, table salt and nitrite salt in a sous-vide bag. Put the eggs and the alcohol reduction in a second sous-vide bag, and the butter in a third. Seal all 3 bags under full pressure, then place in the water bath for 20 minutes
Remove the bags from the water bath and take 1 tablespoon of fat rendered from the meat to reserve for serving. Combine the egg and alcohol reduction with the meats in a bowl and mix with a hand-held blender. Slowly blitz in the butter, then transfer to a Thermomix and blend for 1-2 minutes at 55°C until emulsified, being careful not to incorporate too much air
Preheat the oven to 100°C/gas mark 1/4. Fill a bain-marie with 5cm of water and place in the oven. Pass the meat mixture first through a coarse sieve and then through a fine one. Pour into a terrine dish and place in the bain-marie
After 15 minutes, start checking the temperature of the parfait. Once it reaches 62-64°C in the centre, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Refrigerate from 24 hours before serving
For the quail stock, place the quails in a mincer or powerful food processor and grind to a pulp
  • 10 quails, heads and entrails removed
Pour a small amount of grapeseed oil in a large pressure cooker and heat until very hot. Add the quail meat until browned - if the pan gets too hot, deglaze with a small amount of water. Remove the quail from the pan, drain and set aside
  • 25ml of grapeseed oil
Add the butter, shallots and crushed star anise to the pressure cooker and cook over a medium heat, deglazing from time to time until the shallots are caramelised
Return the quail meat and cover with the chicken bouillon and peppercorns, topping up with water if necessary. Bring to full pressure and cook for 2 hours, then remove from the heat and leave to cool before opening
Skim the fat from the top and pass the stock through a fine sieve lined with a double layer of damp muslin, then cover and chill in the fridge. Once chilled, remove any fat that has solidified on the surface, then transfer the stock to a tray and freeze until completely solid
Once frozen, dip the tray briefly in warm water and turn out the stock on a perforated tray lined with 2 layers of muslin. Set this over a large container to catch the stock as it defrosts, and place in the fridge to thaw very slowly over 24-36 hours
Meanwhile, bring 75ml of the Madeira to a simmer and then set it alight. Let the flame burn out, then reduce the alcohol by half
  • 75ml of Madeira
Add the reduced Madeira to the strained stock and chill quickly in an ice bath or blast-chiller. Once cold, add the herbs and place in a sealed container in the fridge for 12 hours
Strain the stock, then add the remaining 2.5ml of Madeira and the Armagnac. Chill until needed
  • 2.5ml of Madeira
  • 2.5ml of Armagnac
To confit the quail legs, mix together the salt, rosemary, thyme and garlic. Coat the legs in the salt and herb mixture and leave for 10 minutes
Wash the legs well under running water, pat dry and seal in a vac pac bag with the butter. Cook at 75°C for 1 and 1/2 hours, or until cooked through
Remove the legs, place onto kitchen towel and cool, then trim and remove the thigh bone by holding the bottom of the exposed bone and carefully pulling, it should come clean out
To make the black garlic cream, preheat the oven to 140°C/gas mark 1. Cut the garlic bulbs in half across the middle and place on a small roasting tray with the shallots, rosemary and thyme
Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour. Remove from the oven, place into a food processor and blitz into a paste. Pass through a fine strainer, stir in the cream and set aside
  • 100ml of cream
For the feuille de bric 'logs', preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4 and line a shallow oven tray (39 x 27cm) with parchment paper. Wrap the pastry around the handles of wooden spoons to make neat cylinders and brush generously and evenly with the melted butter. Bake for 4 minutes until golden
Transfer the foie gras parfait to a piping bag with a fine nozzle and pipe the mixture into the logs. Once completely filled, place in the fridge until ready to serve
To make the horseradish pearl mixture, whisk together the horseradish cream and the double cream and use to fill pipettes. Place the pipettes in the fridge until needed
  • 300g of horseradish cream
  • 300ml of double cream
For the miso glaze, simply combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk together
To cook the quail breasts, place a frying pan over a high heat until very hot. Add a small dash of vegetable oil and sear the whole quail on all sides until evenly golden. Remove from the pan and allow to cool slightly. Repeat with the other quails
Remove the breast meat from the quail by slicing down the breastbone, ensuring the knife is as close to the bone as possible. Continue slicing toward the ribs to remove the entire breast and wing in one piece. Repeat to remove the other breast and wing. Reserve any remaining pieces of quail meat for the quail egg kebabs
Marinate the quail breasts in the miso glaze for 5 minutes, then set aside in the fridge
To make the tempura batter for the kebabs, whisk together the baking powder and rice flour followed by the vodka and sparkling water to form a thick paste. This batter should be prepared fresh, just before deep-frying
  • 10g of baking powder
  • 125g of rice flour
  • 25ml of vodka
  • 250ml of sparkling water
Preheat the deep fryer to 180°C
Boil 200ml water, gently lower the quail eggs into the pan and boil for 1 minute and 50 seconds. Drain carefully and place the eggs into ice-cold water. Once the eggs are cold, carefully peel, rinse off any shell and set aside
Gently roll the eggs through the flour and then dip and coat them in the tempura batter. Lower into the hot frying oil and cook for 30 seconds. Remove and drain on absorbent kitchen towel. Lastly place the egg onto a skewer with any quail trim from earlier
  • 50g of flour
Pour 1.6kg of the reserved quail stock into a pan and heat to 95°C. Combine the gellans and add to the liquid using a hand-held blender. Bring the mixture to the boil and blitz again to ensure all the gellan has dissolved
  • 15g of gellan gum type F
  • 2.9g of gellan LT100
Remove the plate from the fridge. Holding the wing bone, dip the breasts quickly in and out of the hot stock. Transfer to the chilled plate for a few moments while the gel sets
Refrigerate the quail for 2-3 minutes to set the gel completely and keep in the fridge until needed
Pipette pearls of the horseradish mixture into some liquid nitrogen. Leave to freeze for 5 seconds, then remove and set aside on a cold tray in the freezer
Using a log, or alternatively a rustic wooden board, place the hot breast, confit leg and quail egg kebab at different points along the log. Place the filled 'logs' on a separate plate with the black garlic purée and horseradish pearls
Serve immediately with a warm small copper pot of the quail sauce

Colin McGurran began his career with a burning ambition to own a red Mercedes. Almost 20 years on and he has fulfilled that ambition and much more besides.

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