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Portuguese-marinated quail

Makes 12

This is a Portuguese-inspired twice-marinated and twice-cooked quail dish. The birds are rubbed with a spicy paste and then cooked in a tangy, hot–sour beer marinade. They are left in this marinade for up to three days and require only a quick grilling or frying to turn their skin a delightful golden-red.

4 whole quail

2 cloves garlic crushed with 1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1 teaspoon crushed cumin seeds

1 tablespoon olive oil

200 ml beer

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

2 long red chillies, cut into thirds

4 small sprigs oregano

150 ml olive oil for frying

salt and pepper

Trim the quail of necks and wing tips. Split down the backbone with a heavy knife and clean inside. Wash and pat dry.


Pound the garlic with the salt to a smooth light paste, then pound in the paprika and cumin seeds for a few more minutes so you have a thick, stiff paste. Loosen the paste with 1 tablespoon of the oil and rub thoroughly all over the quail.


In a bowl, mix together the beer and vinegars. Marinate the quail in this mixture overnight in the refrigerator.

Place the quail and marinade into a heavy pot and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, add the chillies and oregano, and cook gently for 12 minutes. Remove the quail and drain it on kitchen paper.


Reduce the marinade by two-thirds until it is thick and syrupy, then pour it over the quail. Cover the quail and marinade with plastic wrap and allow to cool completely. Then refrigerate until you are ready to cook. You can do this up to 3 days ahead of time.

To cook, you can grill the wet quails, straight from the marinade, on a griddle or barbecue or under the grill. They will need about 1. to 2 minutes on each side. Or pat them completely dry, dust it in paprika flour (100 g flour to 1 teaspoon sweet paprika) and deep-fry until crispy. This will take about 1 minute in 200°C oil. To shallow-fry, heat about 2 cm of oil in a frying pan and fry, skin-side down for about a minute on each side, or until golden-brown. Season lightly and serve. 

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