Quail circle of life

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Preparation info

  • Serves


    Starter Portions
    • Difficulty


Appears in

Mile 8: A book about cooking

Mile 8

By David Higgs

Published 2018

  • About
Five Hundred at The Saxon

This dish made the cover of Culinary Artist, the chef’s magazine that Dr Billy Gallagher started. It was plated in a circle then. Just a fun dish really. With great flavours. Spekboom is a local succulent which I like to use preserved. It adds great texture and a lovely acidity.



  • 8 whole quails – 180g each
  • 40 g butter
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 garlic clove – crushed
  • 16 quail breasts

Poached quail eggs

  • 8 quail eggs
  • water
  • 45 ml60 ml white spirit vinegar
  • lightly salted water – for reheating

16 quail leg lollipops

Kataifi nest

  • 40 g kataifi

Pickled spekboom

  • 48 spekboom petals – washed
  • 150 ml rice wine vinegar pickle – chilled
  • Sous vide leeks
  • 16 baby leeks – topped and washed
  • 30 g butter
  • salt

Quail egg shells

  • 8 egg shells
  • 48 g coarse salt
  • 40 ml beef jus

Quail bones


To prepare the quails, remove the wish bone from each quail – reserve for later. Remove the supremes (breasts) from the quails, leaving the wing bone on but removing the winglet. Remove the leg and thigh in one piece from the quail legs, and then remove the thigh bone and push the meat up to resemble a lollipop – reserve the bones for later. Add the butter to a pan with the thyme and garlic, and when the butter is melted and bubbling, add the breasts, skin side down, over low heat. Cook until pink, 2 minutes each side, basting continuously.

To poach the quail eggs, remove the eggs from their shells by cutting off the lid and placing each egg into a separate container – reserve the shells for serving. Place a pot of water on the stove and add vinegar – you should be able to taste it in the water. Bring the water to a simmer and swirl it before gently dropping in the quail egg. Poach until the egg is firm enough to remove, using a slotted spoon, from the water without falling apart. Place the poached eggs in a glass or stainless steel dish and chill in ice water and reserve. As needed, warm the eggs by dropping them carefully in lightly salted water for 30 seconds. Remove and dry on paper towels before plating.

Poach the lollipops in chicken stock until cooked – 1 minute. Chill and reserve. For serving, grill the lollipops over medium coals briefly to colour, and baste with jus.

Roll 5 g of kataifi at a time to create the rough shape of a nest. Bake in a 180°C oven for 15 minutes or until golden.

Pour the chilled rice wine vinegar pickle liquid into a vacuum bag with the washed spekboom petals. Vacuum seal and refrigerate for at least 48 hours before using.

Ensure that the leeks are all a uniform size. Place in a vacuum bag with the butter and salt. Vacuum seal and sous vide at 89°C for 45 minutes. Alternatively, roast the leeks in the oven, covered, at 160°C until tender. Chill in an ice bath and reserve until needed.

Use the eggs shells reserved from making the poached quail eggs and boil clean in a pot of boiling water. Remove from the water and leave to dry. When ready to serve, fill each shell with 5 ml beef jus. Place 6 g of the coarse salt in a pile to support the jus-filled egg shell.

Use the bones reserved from preparing the quail. Boil the bones until they are clean. Remove from the water and gently scrape away any remaining particles. Reserve for plating.

To assemble, arrange the elements as shown in the photo, or as you wish. Most importantly, ensure that the quail, leeks and jus are hot and the pickles are cold.