Claudia Roden’s Quail with Caramelized Onions and Brandy

If you’re looking for an alternative bird to turkey for Christmas, try this delectable Spanish quail recipe with caramelized onions and brandy. Excellent as a main course or starter, the dish is best served with crusty fried bread.

Claudia Roden’s book The Food of Spain is the result of five years of research and writing. A definitive, passionate and evocative cookbook which takes in the different regions and looks at the history, the people and the culture at the heart of this country, and at that which binds it all together – the delicious food and recipes passed down through generations. From simple, rustic tapas and delicately flavoured soups, to elaborate celebratory dishes served on silver platters and cakes and desserts each with a story to tell, this is the book about Spain to learn from and to cook from. Of this recipe Claudia says: “The onions take a long time to caramelize, and are delicious with added brandy. Serve the quails on fried or toasted sliced bread that will soak up the sauce. You will need to pick up the birds with your fingers when you eat, so provide finger bowls.”

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a starter.

See also: Laura Hutton’s Mashed Potato Pie with Bacon, Leeks and Cheese


  • 4 quails
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large onions, peeled, halved and sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 125ml brandy, or to taste
  • 4 large slices of firm white bread, crusts removed, fried in oil or toasted

See also: Atul Kochhar’s Crispy Soft-Shell Crab with Avocado Panna Cottas


  • Pull off any remaining feathers or singe them off over a flame, then rinse the quails and pat them dry with kitchen paper.
  • Heat the oil in a wide, heavy frying pan or casserole and put in the onions. Cover and cook slowly over a very low heat for about 30 minutes until they are very soft and beginning to colour, stirring often.
  • Push the onions to one side, put the quails into the pan and season with salt and pepper. Turn up the heat to medium. Keep turning the quails to brown them all over — around 7 or 8 minutes — and stir the onions so that they brown evenly.
  • Add the brandy and cook, covered, over a low heat for 25 to 30 minutes until the onions are caramelized and the quails are done.
  • Pull the leg of one of the quails — if it moves easily they are cooked. They should still be a little pink. Serve them on toasted or fried sliced bread.

See also: The Biscuiteers’ Decorative Christmas Gingerbread House

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