the weekend extender

couscous stuffed roast quail with prunes & chestnuts

Sometimes wouldn’t it be nice if the weekend could just keep going….No Monday mornings with harsh alarms and lists of thing to do…Just easy Sundays with leisurely brunches in beachside Bondi and candle lit dinners chewing the fat and planning holidays with a good friend…

While I’m still searching for the holy grail that is the endless weekend, I have discovered a trick for at least keeping the weekend feeling alive for as long as possible. It’s quite simple really, just invite someone over for sunday dinner (or even get yourself invited somewhere else which does have the added bonus of washing up minimisation…).

With a dinner to prepare I find myself easily distracted from the impending Mondayitis. With guests to entertain, it would be unthinkable to get up from the couch and put away the washing and organise things for the week ahead…how much more fun to enjoy the moment entertaining and being entertained..making the most of every last minute of weekend goodness.

A Sunday evening dinner is best begun with something nibbley to share over a warming glass of red. Marinated olives with a Rhone-style Grenache blend work well here. Then a main course that can be pre-prepared and just popped in the oven about half an hour before you’re ready to eat works a treat. With a finale of luscious fresh dates stuffed with blue cheese for a divine cheese course/dessert accompanied by a generous glass or two of that nectar called Rutherglen Muscat (a fortified wine style that is unique to Australia), you’ll be mellow enough  as you curl up in bed to not even give Monday a fleeting thought…..all good things….

a vaguely moroccan sunday dinner for two
marinated wild barossa olives
couscous stuffed roast quail with prunes & chestnuts
roast parsnip
fresh dates with blue cheese

couscous stuffed roast quail with prunes & chestnuts
serves 2

I seem to be going through a bit of a poultry phase…first duck and now quail. If you can’t get your hands on quail you could substitute spatchcock or even a larger chicken, you’ll just need to adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Baharat is a fragrant middle eastern spice blend which is made of paprika, black pepper, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, cardamon and nutmeg. While there are plenty of recipes on the web for this spice blend it can be tricky to get the balance right I recommend sourcing some from a professional spice blender such as Herbies Spices (they have mail order HERE) or a middle eastern food store.

for the marinade:
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4t ground cinnamon
1/2t ground cumin
2 cardamon pods, bruised
1/4t ground all spice
1/2t ground ginger
1t sweet paprika
4T olive oil
for the stuffing:
1T olive oil
1/2 small brown onion, diced
1 clove garlic crushed
handful pecans or almonds, roughly chopped
1/2t baharat
2 sprigs thyme
1/3C couscous
2/3C chicken stock
2T butter
3 sprigs flat leaf parsley, chopped
for the quail:
2 quail
2T olive oi, extra
8 chestnuts, roasted, peeled and halved (see note below)
10 prunes, pitted and halved
1C chicken stock, extra
4 sprigs parsley, extra, leaves picked
2 lemon cheeks, to serve
parsnips roasted with thyme and a pinch of baharat, to serve (see my roast white winter veg for a recipe idea, just substitute parsnips for the other veg)

Combine marinade ingredients and season with s&p. Place marinade in a plastic bag with the quail. Refrigerate for at least and hour but preferably overnight.

For the stuffing, heat oil in a small saucepan and cook onion over a low heat until soft. Add garlic, pecans, and baharat and cook stirring for a few more minutes. Add stock and thyme and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and stir in couscous and butter. Cover and allow to stand for 20mins or until couscous has adsorbed the liquid.

Allow quail to come to room temperature and preheat oven to 200C. Stir parsley though stuffing and then fill the quail discarding any stuffing that does not fit.  Tie quail legs together with kitchen string. Heat 2T oil over a medium high heat in an oven proof frying pan large enough to hold the quail and brown on all sides for approx 2 minutes each side.  Add chestnuts, prunes and stock to the pan and allow to come to a simmer. 

Roast quail 30mins until well cooked. Allow to rest for 5 minutes. Season sauce and divide between two dinner plates and top with parsley, quail, and lemon cheeks. Serve with roast parsnip passed separately.

**note: To roast chestnuts. Score a large cross on the flat side of the chestnuts and place in a roasting pan. Toss in olive oil and roast for 25mins at 180C remove from the oven, place in a bowl and cover with cling wrap. Allow to cool before removing the shiny outer shell and the fury inner layer.

fresh dates with blue cheese
serves 2

This is one of those really simple ideas where the whole far exceeds the sum of the parts….a flavour explosion. As with any simple recipe it is really critical that you use the highest quality ingredients. So make sure you use the best fresh dates you can get your hands on….if all you have is supermarket pitted dates you would be better off to turn them into sticky date pudding and save this recipe for another day.

I came across the idea a few years ago in an old issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller. It’s a great thing to serve at the end of a casual dinner when you want something simple to go with some warming Rutherglen Muscat or a luscious Botrytis Semillon (Sauterne).

Take 2-3 fresh dates per person. Cut a slit down one side and remove the seed. Fill the cavity with a chunk of blue cheese. Today I used a gorgonzola but it’s really up to you to choose your favourite blue. The sweetness of the dates works well with either a creamy mild blue or a pungent strong one. Serve at room temperature with a good grind of black pepper.

fresh dates with blue cheese


  • Oh my god this looks amazing Clance…..your photography is getting better and better….

  • I bought some quails yesterday, but I don´t think I can quite face all that. It´s not the weekend yet, after all. But it looks über amazing.

  • hey mands,
    thanks for your kind words

    yeah quail are definitely more of a weekend project…although they do cook quite quickly being so small..

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