Paprika-rubbed smoky quails with caramelized onions and alioli

Paprika-rubbed smoky quails with caramelized onions and alioli

Grill Smoke BBQ
Kris Kirkham

Quails make a perfect little tapa and are becoming readily available in the UK. Go to any bar in Spain and you’ll likely find quails with garlic and oil on the menu – they’re as ubiquitous as chorizo and anchovies. For this recipe, I’ve brined the quails first to help them stay moist and plump on the grill and then spatchcocked them so they cook quickly and evenly. Don’t forget to allow time for the quails to rest after cold-smoking; they need at least 6 hours, but can be left overnight if that’s more convenient.


Quantity Ingredient
cold-smoking device
some oak wood chips
2 large quails, spatchcocked, ask your butcher to do this for you
1 quantity see method for ingredients
3 medium onions finely sliced
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons smoked hot paprika
1/2 lemon, juiced
olive oil, for cooking
sea salt
black pepper
1 quantity see method for ingredients, to serve


  1. Place the quails in a non-reactive bowl and pour over the brine. Cover and leave in the fridge for 1 hour, then drain and pat dry with a paper towel.
  2. Set up the cold-smoking device in the barbecue with the wood chips and get it going. Lay the quails, skin-side up, on the grill, then close the lid and vent of the barbecue and cold-smoke for 2 hours. Transfer the quails to a clean tray or plate, cover and leave in the fridge to rest for at least 6 hours or overnight.
  3. Light the barbecue and set for direct/indirect cooking.
  4. Place a medium saucepan in the indirect heat zone, then add a lug of olive oil, along with the onions and sugar. Cook slowly for 1 hour, stirring occasionally and varying the heat as necessary, until soft and lightly caramelized. When the onions are done, move the pan to the edge of the barbecue to keep warm.
  5. Rub the quails with olive oil, season and then rub them with smoked paprika. Lay the quails, skin-side down, on the grill in the direct heat zone and cook for 3 minutes until the skin starts to crisp and lightly char. Turn over and cook for a further 3 minutes, then move to the indirect heat zone and rest for 2 minutes. The quail meat should still be slightly pink.
  6. Squeeze over some lemon juice, then cut each quail in half lengthwise. Serve with the caramelized onions and a dollop of alioli.

Serve with

  • Smoked and grilled chorizo with roasted peppers and saffron alioli; Cold-smoked sea bream with pomegranate, bottarga and coriander
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