Braised quail & spatchcock pie with fennel, pear & thyme relish

Braised quail & spatchcock pie with fennel, pear & thyme relish

Everybody loves a pie, right? Well check out these babies. My recent parcel from Game Farm contained a few more goodies other than the duck I roasted a few weeks ago and while it didn’t take me long to figure out what to do with the tray of whole quails and single spatchcock, I really wanted to combine the two and slow cook them to tender goodness.

This is a recipe that requires a bit of time and patience and needs to be started the day before you serve it up. It can be made easier by buying, rather than making, your own pastry and made less laborious by doing away with the way I moulded the smaller pies. Small pie tins or even a muffin tray would do fine. The texture of the pie filling isn’t wet like your average pie filling.

As for the relish, I’ve taken elements from something that Maggie Beer concocted and put my own twist on it. The combination of flavours is perfect, especially with the almost game-like flavours of the filling.

Braised quail & spatchcock pie recipe

Fennel, pear & thyme relish recipe

Braised quail & spatchcock pie recipe

braised quail & spatchcock pie with fennel, pear & thyme relish

makes 2 x 20 cm pies or 8 individual pies


  • 1 spatchcock, about 450 g, cut into quarters
  • 4 quails (600 g) cut in ½ lengthways, drumsticks removed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 150 g pancetta, cut roughly
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 4 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1½ tbsp capers, chopped
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 tsp cornflour


Preheat oven 150°C.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and brown the spatchcock and quail on both sides. Remove the birds and set aside.

Add the pancetta and cook, stirring for 5 minutes or until golden. Transfer it to the browned spatchcock and quail. Add a little more oil to the frying pan and cook the onion & garlic for 1 minute, then toss in the anchovies and quail drumsticks for a further minute. Remove the drumsticks and set aside in the fridge, keeping the cooked onion and anchovy in the pan. Return the browned spatchcock, quail halves and cooked pancetta to the frying pan and add the red wine, stock, capers and herbs. Bring to the boil and add the chopped tomato.

Transfer to a baking dish, cover loosely with foil and bake for 2 hours. Remove the spatchcock and quail and set aside to cool.

Carefully pour all of the liquid, onion and pancetta into a saucepan and simmer until reduced, about 15-20 minutes. Discard the herbs.

Remove the meat from the bones and set aside in a mixing bowl.

Combine 1 cup of the reduced braising liquid with ½ cup water. Bring this to the boil and thicken with the cornflour that has been dissolved in a little cold water. Any remaining braising liquid can be frozen for another recipe. Pour the thickened sauce over the torn meat and mix through. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

fennel, pear & thyme relish:

  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small fennel, chopped
  • 2 ripe pears, cored and chopped, skin left on
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 clove
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tbsp maple balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate syrup
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme


Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat and sauté the onion and garlic until soft. Add the fennel and pear and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add all remaining ingredients and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer until the pear softens and all of the liquid is absorbed.


Transfer to a bowl and when it’s cool enough, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

shortcrust pastry:

  • 450 g flour
  • 275 g butter, cubed
  • 1 egg + 1 yolk
  • 2-3 tbsp cold water
  • 1 egg, beaten with a little milk, to brush


Process the flour and butter to a granular texture. Beat the egg and yolk and water and add to the flour mix. Pulse until a ball forms.

Remove from the processor and knead briefly until smooth. Wrap in plastic and chill for ½ hour.

Roll the pastry to 5mm thickness and cut to shape depending on whether you make small individual pies or two large pies.
If making small pies use the mould (I used 6.5cm diameter sweet corn tins and removed the top and bottom) to cut the pastry bases. Cut a 20cm x 5cm strip of pastry to match the circumference of the mould by rolling it along the pastry. For the tops just cut about 6mm around the mould.
To assemble place the smaller pastry round into the bottom of the mould. Curl the strip of pastry on the inside of the mould, lightly pressing the base into the strip to join. Fill the pastry-lined mould with the chilled pie filling and then top with the larger round of pastry, pressing the edges to seal. Use a fork to decorate the edges.
Cut a small slit in the centre of the pie top and push in the reserved semi-cooked quail drumstick. Refrigerate the assembled pies for ½ hour to firm up the pastry again.
Preheat the oven 200°C.
Line a baking tray and remove the pies from the fridge. Very carefully run a thin knife between the pastry and the mould and gently push the pie out of the mould. Arrange the unmoulded pies on the baking tray, brush with the beaten egg and milk and bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden.
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