When I was growing up in Italy, my cousin, Adriano, who lived next door with my Uncle Tunin and Auntie Fortuna, used to bring us gifts of quail or other small birds during the hunting season. This is the way my mother used to cook them – it is simple and quick to prepare, but really tasty.
Quail meat is delicate and very lean, sweet and not gamey or strong at all. The birds beneﬁt from having pancetta wrapped around them to keep the meat moist and some strong herbs like rosemary and sage to ﬂavour the potatoes. Of course you can simply roast the quails without the potatoes and serve them instead with soft polenta and perhaps silverbeet or bitter greens sautéed in olive oil and ﬁnished with red wine vinegar.
8 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly squashed
1 pork and fennel sausage, skin removed
12 sprigs rosemary
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
80 g pancetta, sliced
125 ml extra virgin olive oil
6 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
6 sprigs sage
60 g butter, cubed
175 ml dry white wine
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Wash the quail well under cold running water and dry them thoroughly. Into each cavity place a garlic clove, some sausage meat, a sprig of rosemary and some sea salt and pepper. Wrap each quail with 2 or 3 slices of pancetta. Pour enough olive oil into a roasting tin to cover the base, then add the quail. Scatter the potato around the quail and season with salt and pepper. Tear up the remaining rosemary and the sage, and scatter around. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and top with the cubes of butter.
Roast the quail for 10 minutes, then sprinkle over the wine and roast for a further 30 minutes. Serve hot, with ﬁnger bowls.
Berry and mascarpone tart
Makes 1 24cm tart
This beautiful summer tart is perfect for large gatherings and picnics. I have suggested topping the tart with mixed summer berries, but it works well with most fruits, particularly ﬁgs if you are making it in autumn.
This recipe makes enough pastry for two tarts, because one is never enough – and you can freeze the other portion of pastry for several months, ready for the next time you have guests.
1 egg yolk
80 g caster sugar
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 vanilla bean, split lengthways and seeds scraped
30 ml Cointreau
500 g mascarpone
fresh berries, to serve
500 g plain flour, sifted
170 g pure icing sugar, sifted
250 g chilled butter, chopped
For the pastry, mix together the ﬂour and icing sugar in a large bowl. Using your ﬁngertips, rub in the butter until the mixture has a sandy consistency. Add 2 of the eggs and use a ﬂat-bladed knife to mix lightly, until combined. Press together to form a dough, then divide in half. Shape each half into a ball and cover in plastic ﬁlm. Place one in the fridge to rest for 1 hour, and freeze the other one for later.
Spray a 24 cm loose-based ﬂuted tart tin with cooking oil. Place the chilled pastry on a ﬂoured surface and roll out to a very thin circle, about 4 cm larger in diameter than the tart tin. Line the tin with the pastry, pressing it gently into the sides. Pinch the excess pastry 1 cm above the rim of the tart tin, then place in the fridge for 1 hour to rest.
Preheat the oven to 160°C.
Line the pastry shell with baking paper, ﬁll with baking beads, uncooked rice or dried beans and blind bake for 25–30 minutes until golden brown. Take out of the oven and remove the paper and weights. Beat the remaining egg and lightly brush over the pastry shell to seal the surface, then return to the oven for a few minutes to cook the egg. Remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Once cool, trim any excess pastry with a sharp knife. Reduce the oven temperature to 110°C.
To make the ﬁlling, use a balloon whisk to beat the egg, egg yolk, sugar, lemon and orange zest, vanilla seeds and Cointreau in a large bowl until just combined. Add the mascarpone and whisk until combined. Fill the cooled pastry shell with the mascarpone mixture to about three-quarters full. Bake for 1 hour or until the surface looks set when you give the tart a gentle shake. Arrange the berries on top. Enjoy!
The Art of Traditional Italian, by Lucio Galletto. (Lantern, $59.95.)