Archive of BBC Food Recipes

Five-spice roasted quail with sweet-and-sour cranberry sauce

Prep time 30 mins to 1 hour
Cook time 30 mins to 1 hour
Serves 4
From Christmas Kitchen with James Martin
This incredible Chinese-style feast certainly has the wow-factor. Try it at Christmas, or for Chinese New Year. Equipment: For this recipe you will need 4 10cm/4in lengths of butchers' string.


  1. For the potatoes, place the potato cubes and salt into a lidded saucepan of cold water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat until the water is simmering. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until tender. Drain well and set aside.

  2. For the cranberry sauce, heat all of the cranberry sauce ingredients in a lidded saucepan over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring well until the cranberries have softened. Cover the pan with the lid and keep warm over a very low heat.

  3. For the spice rub, mix together all of the spice rub ingredients until well combined.

  4. For the spiced quail, preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4. Wash the quails under a cold running tap, then pat dry with kitchen paper.

  5. Season the cavity of each quail with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then stuff each with two pieces of ginger, two pieces of orange peel and two pieces of the spring onion. Sew up the cavities using a small metal pin or small bamboo skewer. This will help keep the quail moist and impart flavour to the meat.

  6. Brush the quails all over with the rapeseed oil, then roll them in the spice rub until completely covered. Tie the hind legs of each quail using butchers' string.

  7. Line the base of a roasting tray with the sliced baby shallots and the remaining slices of spring onion. Place the quails on top of the vegetable layer and drizzle over the rice wine to season. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the skin is crisp and golden-brown and the meat is cooked through. (The quails are cooked through if the juices run clear when a skewer is inserted into the thickest part of the thigh and no trace of pink remains.) Check the quails after 15 minutes to make sure the legs are not browning too quickly; cover the legs with aluminium foil if so.

  8. Meanwhile, carry on with the potatoes. Heat the peanut oil in a wok over a high heat. Add the ginger, black beans, dried chilli flakes and bacon and stir-fry for 30 seconds, or until just browning. Add the drained potato cubes and continue to stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the soy sauce and stir again.

  9. Transfer the potato mixture to a roasting tray, drizzle over a splash of rapeseed oil (or the goose fat), then roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the potatoes are crisp and golden-brown.

  10. When the quails are cooked, transfer them to a wooden board, remove the butchers' string and any foil, and set aside to rest for 5 minutes. Reserve the juices in the roasting tray.

  11. For the gravy, place the roasting tray with the reserved quail juices over a medium heat on the stove-top. Add the chicken stock and bring to the boil, scraping up any burned bits from the bottom of the tray using a wooden spoon. Whisk in the flour until the mixture is smooth, then continue to boil until it thickens to a gravy. Stir in the soy sauce, then keep warm over a low heat.

  12. For the carrots, blanch the carrots in a pan of boiling water for 2-3 minutes, then drain well and set aside.

  13. For the cavolo nero, heat the rapeseed oil in a wok over a high heat. Add the cavolo nero and stir-fry for 1 minute.

  14. Add a splash of cold water to the wok, then continue to stir-fry until the water has evaporated and the cavolo nero has wilted.

  15. Add the carrots, season with the sea salt flakes, then stir-fry for a further 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

  16. To serve, put the cavolo nero and carrots onto one side of each of four serving plates and potatoes on the other side. Put one quail on top of each portion and put a dollop of the cranberry sauce on the side of each plate. Serve the gravy in a jug alongside.


For the potatoes

  • 1kg/2lb 4oz waxy potatoes such as Vivaldi, skin left on, chopped into 2.5cm/1in cubes
  • pinch salt
  • 1-2 tbsp peanut oil
  • 1-2 tbsp freshly grated root ginger
  • 1 tsp fermented salted black beans (available from Chinese supermarkets), rinsed, crushed
  • ¼ tsp dry-roasted chilli flakes
  • 120g/4½oz oak-smoked bacon lardons
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2-3 tbsp rapeseed oil or goose fat (optional)

For the cranberry sauce

  • 300g/10½oz fresh cranberries
  • 100g/3½oz soft brown sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp water
  • 1 lemon, juice only
  • 1 small orange, juice only
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 tsp dry-roasted chilli flakes

For the spice rub

  • 2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 8 pinches salt
  • ½ tsp ground white pepper

For the spiced quail

  • 4 quails (about 560g/1lb 4oz in total), cleaned (ask the butcher to do this for you)
  • 2.5cm/1in piece fresh root ginger, peeled, cut into 8 slices
  • 1 small orange, peel only, peel removed in one go, then chopped into 8 equal-sized lengths
  • 4 spring onions, trimmed, cut into 8 slices
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 4 baby shallots, peeled, sliced
  • 1 tbsp shaoxing rice wine
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the gravy

  • 700ml/1¼ pints chicken stock
  • 4-5 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce

For the carrots

  • 300g/10½oz baby heritage carrots (less than 10cm/4in in length), tops removed

For the cavolo nero

  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 320g/11¼oz cavolo nero, washed, sliced
  • 2 generous pinches sea salt flakes

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Five-spice roasted quail with sweet-and-sour cranberry sauce

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