Richard's perfect roast dinner – stuffed Norfolk quail with Norfolk pearl barley

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Richard Bainbridge's 'perfect roast dinner' sees the Norwich-based chef deboning and stuffing whole quails, creating an amazing dish where the whole bird can be eaten. The birds are served with a pearl barley risotto and roasted root vegetables for a comforting yet refined dish that champions Norfolk produce.

First published in 2018





  • 4 quails, deboned from the bottom up and trimmed of any excess fat (you can ask your butcher to do this for you)

Chicken jus

Stuffing for quail

Roasted carrots

Roasted parsnips

Roasted onions

Pearl barley

To serve


  • Muslin cloth
  • Butcher's string
  • Trussing needle


Begin by making the chicken jus – you can make this ahead of time and reheat later if desired. Place a medium-sized pan over a high heat, add a splash of oil and the chicken bones and fry until golden brown. Remove the chicken bones from the pan, set aside, and add the chopped vegetables. Cook until golden
Place the roasted chicken bones back in the pan with the vegetables and add the white wine. Bring to the boil and reduce by three-quarters. Add the chicken stock, veal stock, garlic, thyme and bay leaf, bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer. Skim away any impurities that have risen to the surface
Cook the sauce for 45 minutes, skimming occasionally, then pass through muslin cloth into a clean pan and return to a high heat. Leave to reduce until the sauce has thickened nicely
Next prepare the stuffing for the quails – it is wise to get the birds prepped ahead of time to save on stress later. Fry the chopped garlic in a little oil until soft, then combine with the rest of the stuffing ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Fry off a small patty of the stuffing to check the seasoning, as this is the only opportunity you'll have to taste it, and adjust as necessary
Place the quails on the table with the front of the bird facing you. Place a small amount of the stuffing into the legs, where the bone would be, roll a small amount of the stuffing into a sausage shape and stuff into the cavity of the birds. Use a trussing needle and butchers twine to sew the quails up. Using more string, tie the bird back up so it looks like an oven-ready bird. Set aside while you prepare the other elements
  • 4 quails, deboned from the bottom up and trimmed of any excess fat, you can ask your butcher to do this for you
For the carrots, place the butter in a pan with a lid which is big enough for the carrots to lie lengthways. Set over a medium heat – once the butter starts to foam, add the carrots. Cover, turn down the heat and cook gently for 1 hour. Season to taste
Neatly peel the parsnips, making sure they keep their shape. Place in a pan, add the butter and cover with cold water and a little salt. Place over a high heat, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer with the lid on for 15–20 minutes, or until tender
Peel the onions, keeping them whole, and blanch in rapidly boiling water. Melt the butter in a pan set over a medium heat. When it starts to foam, add the thyme, bay leaves and onions and cook until they are just tender. Remove the onions from the pan and slice in half
Preheat a frying pan over a high heat, add a splash of rapeseed oil and cook the onions in the pan cut-side down until browned and caramelised
  • rapeseed oil
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4
To cook the quails, heat an ovenproof frying pan over a high heat. Season the birds with salt and seal all over until golden brown in a dash of oil. Place in the centre of the oven for 10–12 minutes
While the quails are cooking, prepare the pearl barley. Place a large pan over a low heat and add 50g of the butter. Once foaming, add the leek and gently cook until soft. Add the pearl barley and white wine and allow the wine to reduce by three-quarters
Add enough chicken stock to cover and stir well, letting the pearl barley absorb the stock before adding more. Proceed in this manner until the pearl barley is tender and all of the stock has been absorbed
  • 1l chicken stock, heated to boiling
Remove the quails from the oven and leave to rest for 20–30 minutes. Remove the string before serving
To finish the pearl barley, beat in the remaining butter and the Parmesan
When ready to serve, gently reheat the sauce and finish it by adding a splash of white wine, a small knob of butter and the chopped herbs. Stir the herbs into the pearl barley just before serving
To serve, place a portion of the pearl barley onto the centre of each plate with a whole quail on top. Place two of the carrots, two of the parsnips and the onion halves around the outside of the plate, arranging them to give height to the dish. Spoon the jus over the quail, finish with a few carrot tops and serve

With a background in classical cooking in Michelin-starred kitchens, Richard Bainbridge returned to his home city of Norwich to open Benedicts, a renowned restaurant which serves Norfolk produce cooked with passion, playfulness and creativity.

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