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Chef’s Recipe : “The Story of the Quail in the Woods” by Colin McGurran at Winteringham Fields

An introduction to this iconic recipe by Colin McGurran

Early one October morning, I was out in the woods at the bottom of the fields. The mist was swirling through the trees, sinking slowly to the damp woodland floor. I could barely see my feet. Then the eerie silence was broken by the shrill call of the quail…

The sound of the birds and the smell of the damp woods gave me an idea: How could I translate this snapshot of country life into a course on my menu?  The Quail In The Woods, which has gone on to become one of my signature dishes, started at this moment.

From the woods to the plate

I needed to replicate the feelings evoked by my senses that morning into a recipe that would recreate the scene and the mood.

It had to be visual, but not in a straightforward way. I had to find a way of painting a picture on a plate that would represent the woodland floor, the mist and the quail. To lift the senses and recreate the eeriness of it all was my ultimate aim.

The dish is very visual and suggestive. The autumn woodland floor is represented by moss, wild flowers, and dehydrated black olives that replicate the soil. The scented aroma of bark stock provides the smell of the woodland floor. Finally, liquid nitrogen provides the swirling mist.

The Great British Menu

I used The Quail in the Woods in my debut in the Great British Menu in 2012. It was my first appearance on the show and I was really nervous.

They wanted something groundbreaking and aesthetically stunning so this is what I did. It seemed to do the trick.

I won the regional heat and managed to get through to represent our region with the starter course on the menu at the Great British Olympic Banquet, held at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich.

It’s a dish that recreates a little part of my life at Winteringham, and I’m very proud of it. It’s also the perfect introduction to our philosophy, and has never failed to impress when it comes out of the kitchen and onto the table.

— Colin

The Quail in the Woods

Roasted quail breast, tempura of its own egg, confit of its leg, parfait of its liver and foie gras, garnished with foraged ingredients, black garlic cream and horseradish pearls.

Serves: 8 people.
Preparation & cooking time: 36 hours total

Skill level 5+

Ingredients :

For the Quail Breast

  • 4 whole quail. Head, entrails and legs removed
  • 120g butter
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 4 garlic cloves

For the Quail Egg Kebab

  • 8 quail eggs
  • 50g flour
  • Cooked quail trim from breast

For the Tempura Batter

  • 125g rice flour
  • 10g baking powder
  • 250ml sparkling water
  • 25 ml vodka

For the Black Garlic Cream

  • 60g black garlic
  • 120g shallots
  • 1 tsp thyme, leaves only
  • 1sp rosemary, leaves only
  • 100ml cream

For the Quail Sauce

  • 10 quails, heads and entrails removed
  • 25ml grapeseed oil
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, finely sliced
  • 2 star anise, crushed
  • 300ml chicken bouillon
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns, crushed
  • 100ml Madeira
  • 1 tsp Armagnac

For the Horseradish Pearls (optional)

  • 300g horseradish cream
  • 300ml cream

For the Confit Leg

  • 12 legs
  • 1 tbsp coarse salt
  • sprig of rosemary
  • Sprig of thyme
  • ½ clove garlic
  • 30g salted butter

For the Foie Gras Parfait

  • 2 shallots, finely sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 sprigs of thyme, tied with string
  • 150ml ruby Port
  • 75ml  white Port
  • 50ml Brandy
  • 300g foie gras
  • 3tsp table salt
  • 240g eggs
  • 300g unsalted butter, melted

For the Feuilles De Brick Log

  • 1 black feuille de brick pastry

For the Miso Glaze

  • 100ml white miso
  • 250ml sake
  • 250ml mirin
  • 115g sugar

To Garnish

  • Sorrel or pennywort

For the Woods

  • ½ a log of bark
  • A handful of cleaned moss
  • Foraged wild berries, flowers and herbs
  • Any other woodland effects that take your fancy

Method :

For the Quail Breast

  1. In a hot pan, sear the quail on each breast and on the crown until golden brown
  2. Add the butter to the pan stand quail up on its back and stuff with thyme and garlic
  3. Baste in the pan with butter for 1 minute
  4. Place in a 120c oven for 4 minutes Rest for 15 minutes
  5. Remove breast when rested and set aside

For the Tempura Batter

Combine all the ingredients in a mix together

For the Quail Egg Kebab

  1. Bring a pan of water to the boil place eggs in water and cook for 1 minute 50 seconds
  2. Remove and keep in ice bath, then peel the eggs
  3. Roll in the flour and dip in tempura batter
  4. When ready to serve deep fry for 30 seconds then skewer the tempura egg with the quail trim

For the Black Garlic Cream

  1. Halve the garlic bulb
  2. Combine all the ingredients except for the cream in a tray. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour
  3. Blitz in a blender, pass through a fine sieve and add cream

For the Quail Sauce

  1. Using a mincer or food processor, rind the quail then set aside
  2. Heat a small amount of grapeseed oil in a pressure cooker until hot
  3. Fry the quail until browned
  4. Remove the quail meat from the pan, drain and set aside
  5. Add the butter, shallot and crushed star anise to the pan and cook on a medium heat, deglazing from time to time until caramelised
  6. Return the quail meat and cover with the chicken bouillon topping up with water if necessary
  7. Add the crushed peppercorns
  8. If using a normal saucepan, seal and cook for four hours at a simmer, or use a pressure cooker. Seal the pressure cooker, bring to full pressure and cook for 2 hours
  9. Remove from the heat and leave to cool before opening
  10. Skim the fat from the top and pass the stock through a fine sieve lined with a damp muslin
  11. When chilled remove any fat then transfer the stock to a tray and freeze until solid
  12. Once frozen, dip the tray briefly in warm water and turn out the stock on a perforated tray lined with two layers of muslin
  13. Set this over a large container to catch the stock as it defrosts and place in the fridge to thaw over 24-36 hours
  14. In the meantime bring 75ml of Madeira to a simmer and set alight
  15. Let the flame burn out and reduce the alcohol by half
  16. Add the reduced Madeira to the reduced stock and chill quickly in an ice bath or blast chiller. When cold, seal in a container in the fridge for 12 hours
  17. Strain the stock then add the remaining 25 ml Madeira and then Armagnac
  18. Chill until needed

For the Horseradish Pearls

  1. Blend the ingredients together and rest
  2. Place into a pipette and squeeze into liquid nitrogen and reserve until end of dish

For the Confit Leg

  1. Place the legs on a tray then mix the salt, herbs and garlic together and pour over legs
  2. Leave for 10 minutes and then wash well under water
  3. Pat dry and wrap in cling film with butter and cook in a water bath for 1 hour 30 minutes at 75c, or simmer in a saucepan for the same amount of time. (Alternatively if you have the equipment than you can vacuum pack)
  4. Remove and cool then trim and remove the thigh bones

For the Foie Gras Parfait

  1. Place the shallots, garlic and thyme in a pan with the Madeira, ruby Port, white Port and brandy. Set aside to marinate for 24 hours
  2. Heat the marinated mixture until nearly all the liquid has evaporated, stirring regularly to prevent the shallots and garlic from burning
  3. Remove from the heat and discard the thyme
  4. Reheat in a water bath to 50c or use a steamer
  5. Cut the foie gras into pieces roughly the same size as the chicken livers
  6. Put the chicken livers, foie gras and table salt in a vacuum pack bag or wrap in clingfilm
  7. Put the eggs and the alcohol reduction in a second vacuum pack bag with the butter in a third
  8. Seal all the bags under full pressure, then place in the water bath, or steam for 20 minutes
  9. Remove the bag from the water bath. Take a tablespoon of fat rendered from the meat and reserve for serving
  10. Combine the eggs, alcohol reduction and meats in a bowl and mix with hand-held blender
  11. Slowly blitz in the butter, then transfer to a blender and blend for 1-2 minutes at until emulsified being careful not to incorporate too much air
  12. Preheat the oven to 100c
  13. Fill a bain-marie with 5cm water and place in the oven
  14. Pass the meat mixture first through a coarse sieve and then through a fine one
  15. Pour into a terrine dish and place in bain-marie
  16. After 15 minutes, start checking the temperature of the parfait
  17. When it reaches 62-64c in the centre, remove from the oven and allow to cool
  18. Refrigerate for 24 hours before serving

For the Filo Tubes

  1. Roll out the filo pastry thinly and then roll around a thin rolling pin or heat proof tube
  2. Bake for 7 minutes until golden brown and cut to size, around 2 inches long, whilst still warm 
  3. When tubes cooled, pipe the chilled foie gras parfait into each tube

For the Miso Glaze

  1. Add all of the ingredients together and reduce in pan until they are the consistency of syrup 

To Serve :

  1. Assemble the woods as per the picture
  2. Spoon the quail sauce and garlic puree on a plate and place the foie gras parfait filled tuille
  3. Set up the “woods” and lay over a leg board and finish the breast in pan
  4. Garnish with sorrel or pennywort then last minute sprinkle the horseradish pearls on the plate

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1 winteringham

Winteringham Fields, 1 Silver Street, Winteringham, Scunthorpe DN15 9ND

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