Quails' Eggs


The quail in the wild is almost unknown on this island, but it thrives as a farmed fowl. A small, bunty gamebird, it is a regular on restaurant menus, but you don't so often see quails' eggs around. A friend, however, who does keep quail, donated a tray of eggs. They are splotched with purple and brown, very striking, and bigger than memory had measured them. Perhaps he just feeds them better than others. First taste was of them fried. Each egg, yolk and white, just covered a two-inch-square piece of toast. Delicious.

More usual style is to hard-boil. In the old days, London club-men used to have their plovers' eggs hard-boiled as a starter: that went out with stricter nature regulations. Maybe, however, they can import them from France? You just rap your egg on the plate and take off the shell as best you can. If you get the membrane with your finger-nail, you may peel them clean almost in one movement. Otherwise you admire the light blue interior of the shell in a hundred pieces.

Just dipped in pepper and salt, the hard-boiled interior is quite something. (Technical note: boil your water, then gently put in your eggs with a spoon.) Two minutes exactly gives you a yolk that is just slightly less than hard: fine; if you want it quite hard, try another 10 or 15 seconds. Are they difficult to rear? Don't know. Can't be much different from raising hens. Are quite prolific in producing eggs, according to the friend. As for eating the bird itself - farmed, remember - there is no shortage of rather exotic ways of dressing up such a morsel.

Mrs Beeton doesn't have anything to say about the eggs (in this edition, anyway) but under the heading "To Dress Quails", she informs us: "These birds keep good for several days, and should be roasted without drawing. Truss them in the same manner as woodcocks, roast them before a clear fire, keep them well basted and serve on toast." She tells us, further, that on their journeys across the Mediterranean they have been taken in prodigious numbers, even up to 100,000 in the compass of four or five miles. (This edition is dated 1888.)

More carnivorous affairs, now that the game season is open: the gift of a golden prover, plucked, drawn (!) and blithely stuffed with herbs from the donor's own garden. Y.