At this time of year I love cooking poussins, small baby chickens. Their flavour is so much sweeter and their texture so much softer than normal, fully grown chickens. You can buy them at your local butcher, but if he does not stock them you could always pre-order them. Of course now that quails are all farmed you could also use a quail to replace a poussin. I would portion one quail per person for this recipe, as the mascarpone cream filling is really quite rich. The intense flavour of freshly chopped Italian flat leaved parsley makes this recipe.
Ingredients to serve 4 people
2 poussins (or 4 quails)
250 g. tub of Mascarpone cream cheese
200g. raw pinenuts
250ml. Madeira / Amontillado
sea salt and pepper
2 good pinches of saffron strands, finely ground in a pestle and mortar
Two big handfuls of flat leaved Italian parsley, finely chopped.
Fresh garden thyme (flowers too if possble) for decoration
1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C.
2. Wash, dry and season the poussins, or quails. In a bowl mix the mascarpone cream cheese with the finely ground saffron strands and the finely chopped parsley (make sure you set some parsley aside for decoration). Stuff the birds with the mascarpone cream cheese and place on an oiled roasting tray.
3. Rub the birds with a little olive oil and roast in the oven for about 10-12 minutes, until they begin to become golden brown in colour. Pour the Madeira over the birds and add the pinenuts, scattered around them.
4. Return the birds to the oven for another 15 minutes or so. The quails will take a little less. Make sure you baste the birds at half time, to keep them moist. The mascarpone will have run out and combined with the Madeira to make a delicious sauce.
5. Check to ensure the birds are fully cooked by piercing the thighs with a skewer, seeing that all the liquids run completely clear.
6. Remove the birds from the oven and leave to rest in a warm place for about 5 minutes. Serve with the sauce and pinenuts, and some of the extra parsley and the chopped thyme and flowers, for decoration.