This is a simplified recipe for one of my favourite and most popular signature dishes. The combination of flavours and textures really works well, and the dish is robust enough for winter eating. Make sure that the quail eggs are only lightly poached so that the yolks are still runny as they make a gorgeous sauce that flavours the mixed mushroom, onion confit and spinach tartlet. Boning out the quail breast meat isn't as fiddly as it sounds. Simply bone-out the breasts and leave the legs and thighs bone-in. Garnish the plate with spinach and mixed mushrooms or a dice of braised winter vegetables.
4 oven-ready quails
16 poached quail eggs
100g mixed diced mushrooms, sautéed in butter
200g spinach, sautéed in butter and drained
250g plain flour
1 egg yolk
Planning ahead: Prepare this dough at least 4 hours in advance so that it can firm up and lose its elasticity.
1. Rub the butter and the flour until the mixture resembles fine grains of sand. Mix the remaining ingredients together and add progressively. Blend until mixed, shape into a ball, wrap in cling film and refrigerate.
2. Roll out the pastry and take four buttered brioche moulds and line. Rest in the fridge for 15 minutes before baking, then bake at 160°C for 15-20 mins. Leave to cool then remove from the moulds.
200g button onions sliced
50g smoked bacon cut into small lardons
100ml whipping cream
3. In a saucepan, slowly cook the sliced onions with the butter and a pinch of salt.
4. Pan-fry the lardons in a little oil and then strain off the excess fat. Mix together the onions and lardons. Reduce the cream by half, add to the onions and lardons, and season with salt and pepper.
5. Roast the quail in the oven at 200°C for 6 minutes. Leave to rest 10 minutes and then take off from the bone.
6. Add a dash of vinegar to simmering salted water and lightly poach the quail eggs for 11/2 to 2 minutes. Remove from the water and immediately refresh in iced water. When needed, heat back up in simmering water in a sieve.
7. Place a small amount of cooked spinach into the bottom of each tartlet and then some of the mushroom dice. Season with salt and pepper. Now spoon in some of the onion confit and then top with the poached quail eggs.
8. Re-heat the quail meat and place onto the top of the tartlet. Garnish the plate with diced mixed mushrooms and sautéed spinach drizzled with a little of the quail pan juices.