Cooking with Max Rocha: Quail, Grilled Leeks and Romesco

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In the final instalment of his series, Max Rocha shares the recipe for a perfect seasonal dish

Max Rocha is a London-based chef who has worked at some of London’s finest restaurants, from St John Bread and Wine to The River Café. Over the coming weeks, he will share a series of seasonal recipes to enjoy at home.

This week, I managed to get my hands on some quails. This recipe is great for summer as it embraces the beautiful leeks which are available at the moment. Quails have a tender and flavourful flesh. Here they are with romesco and poached, then grilled, leeks. (If you cannot get quail from your local butcher, chicken thigh or leg is a good alternative.)


15 blanched almonds
15 hazelnuts
Ten cherry tomatoes
100 millilitres olive oil
Two red peppers
One clove garlic
One teaspoon smoked paprika
100 grams stale bread
One red chilli

  1. Toast nuts in a 170-degree preheated oven for 15 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Place the tomatoes (cut in half), the peppers (cut in half and seeds removed), the whole chilli and the garlic on a baking tray. Coat with olive oil and a splash of red wine vinegar and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Bake in the oven until peppers and tomatoes are completely cooked (around 40 minutes).
  4. Allow all ingredients to cool. Then blitz nuts & bread in a food processor to a chunky consistency.
  5. Add your roasted vegetables and blitz to your required consistency. Add paprika and 100 millitres of good quality olive oil. Add all the roasting juices from the pan. Season with salt to taste and set aside.

Grilled leeks

Five baby leeks
Four peppercorns
Small head of garlic
Olive oil
Small bunch of thyme

  1. Prepare your baby leeks by taking off the woody bottom but keeping the vegetable whole.
  2. Trim two centimetres off the green end of the leek.
  3. Fill a heavy bottom pan to half full with two thirds water, one third olive oil, a small bunch of thyme, peppercorns, a good pinch of salt and a whole head of garlic. Bring to the boil.
  4. Poach leeks in this liquor until fully cooked but not falling apart, around six minutes. I do this in batches to not overcrowd the pan.
  5. Preheat a grill pan and grill them to get a nice char – but do this when the quail is just rested and ready to serve so the leeks are warm.

Pan roasted quail

One quail per person
Splash of white wine
Salt and pepper
A sprig of thyme and rosemary

  1. Ask your butcher to clean the quails but leave whole.
  2. Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
  3. Stuff the quail with a sprig of thyme and rosemary.
  4. Place quails on roasting tray, rub with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.
  5. Place in the oven for ten minutes and add a splash of white wine half way through.
  6. Take out and allow to rest for ten minutes covered in tin foil.

To serve

Place quail on a bed of your grilled leeks with your romesco on the side. I like to put a dollop of good quality crème fraîche on the romesco as it cuts through the flavour nicely.