Quails are accommodating little birds. The flesh is moist and tender, and they have a mild flavour that goes well with many types of seasoning. Depending on how they’re cooked and with what ingredients, quails can be served at elegant dinner parties or as casual picnic fare. These two recipes lean more towards the casual side, because it’s hard to resist picking up the pieces with your fingers so you can bite the juicy flesh from the bones.

Grilled quails with hatcho miso and yuzu (pictured)

I love the strong, rich flavour of hatcho miso, which is made from soya beans. You can find it at any supermarket that carries a good selection of Japanese products, but I especially recommend Apita, in Taikoo Shing, because it also sells fresh yuzu, which is another ingredient you need for this recipe.

4 quails, about 180 grams each, thawed, if frozen
Fine sea salt
60 grams hatcho miso
60 grams peeled nashi pear, roughly chopped
15ml sake
10 grams peeled ginger, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
30 grams unsalted butter, chilled
The finely grated zest of half a yuzu

Use poultry shears to snip off the wingtips from each quail. Cut along one side of the backbone from the tail end to the neck, then turn the quail around and cut along the other side of the backbone to detach it completely. Turn the bird over so the skin side is down. From the cavity, pull out the wishbones, shoulder bones and ribs – on quail, these bones are thin and detach easily. By the time you finish, each quail will have only the bones in the leg (thigh and drumstick), the breast, and those in the middle and drumette portion of the wings. Dry the fleshy parts of the quails with paper towels. Very lightly sprinkle salt over the birds.

Put the hatcho miso, nashi pear, sake, ginger and garlic in a bowl and use an immersion blender to purée the ingredients to a thick, rough paste. Cut the butter into small chunks, add it to the ingredients and purée again. Mix in the yuzu zest. Smear the paste over the skin and fleshy portions of the quails then put them in bowl, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for several hours.

Barbecue recipes: for chicken, and balsamic duck breast

Heat the oven grill. Lay the quails skin-side up on a lightly oiled grill rack. Slide the rack into the oven so the quails are about 2cm away from the heat element. Cook the quails for 10 minutes, or until done – the flesh will still be slightly pink at the centre, and the skin will be charred in spots. If the skin gets too dark before the birds are done, put them a little further away from the heat. Cut the quails into halves or quarters and serve hot or warm.

Grilled quails with onion, wilted spinach and fingerling potatoes

4 quails, about 180 grams each, thawed, if frozen
45ml cooking oil, plus more as needed
1 medium-sized onion
15 grams grainy mustard
30ml rice vinegar
6-10 fingerling potatoes, depending on size
About 15ml extra-virgin olive oil
160 grams fresh baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
Fine sea salt, rough-flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Remove the bones from the quails as in the first recipe, then season the birds with a sufficient amount of salt and pepper.

Thinly slice the onion. Heat 45ml of cooking oil in a skillet set over a medium flame. Add the onion and a sprinkling of salt and heat until sizzling. Lower the flame and cook the onion until it's soft and translucent (about 20 minutes), stirring occasionally.

How to make delicious deep-fried Cornish hens

While the onion is cooking, grill the birds. Heat the oven grill. Brush the quails with cooking oil, then lay them skin side-up on a lightly oiled grill rack. Slide the rack into the oven so the quails are about 2cm away from the heat element. Cook the quails for about 10 minutes, or until done.

Scrub the potatoes but do not peel them. Slice the potatoes into rounds about 1cm thick. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil, add the potato and cook until tender but not mushy. Drain the potato, drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Use your hands to mix the pieces so they’re evenly coated with the oil and seasonings.

Quail fried with vegetables, and grilled lemongrass quail

When the onion is soft, increase the flame and stir until sizzling. Mix in the mustard and some pepper then the rice vinegar. Turn off the flame then add the spinach and mix until wilted. Divide the ingredients between four plates. Cut the quails into quarters then place them on top of the spinach and onion. Add the potato then sprinkle with rough-flaked sea salt and pepper and serve immediately. 

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