Subscribe and choose a new cookbook
The perfect Christmas gift for you or a loved one
To make a marinade, mix the herbs, lemon zest, brandy, seasoning and 6 tbsp olive oil in a large dish. Season the birds and spoon some marinade into the cavities. Roll them in the rest of the marinade, then cover and chill overnight.
For the walnut sauce, whizz the garlic and walnuts together with a little salt in a small food processor until finely chopped. Add the oil in a thin stream, as though you’re making a mayonnaise. Stir in 2 tbsp warm water. Season with pepper, add the parsley and set aside.
Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. To cook the quail, wipe any herbs from the breast area. Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan and, when really hot, quickly brown the birds all over, in batches, colouring but not cooking the meat.
Put a piece of butter inside each bird and put them into a roasting tin. Roast in the oven for 15-20 mins, depending on whether you like the meat to be a little pink, adding a quarter of the vermouth after 10 mins. Put the figs in a small gratin dish in a single layer. Drizzle with the honey and balsamic, then season. Roast for 20 mins, alongside the quail, basting during cooking. The figs should be dark and tender but holding their shape. Cover to keep warm and set aside.
Put the quail on a warm platter and cover. Put the roasting tin on the hob over a high heat. Add the rest of the vermouth, bring to the boil and bubble until there’s 150ml left. Add the stock and boil until you have a slightly syrupy sauce, enough for 2 tbsp per serving of quail. Put two birds on each plate and spoon over the reduced sauce. Serve with three fig halves each and the walnut sauce.