Campfire quail

Campfire quail

A Year of Practiculture
Rohan Anderson & Kate Berry

I reckon one of autumn’s great treats is the stubble quail. I find most hunters have their favourite seasonal food to hunt, and for me it’s quail. To hunt them is tricky due to their size and speed. You could almost say it’s like trying to pin Speedy Gonzales! I use my pointer to find the birds that lie hidden in thick pasture or freshly cut stubble of crops like maize, then the two of us flush them out and off they fly with a flutter of wings. If I lay my shot carefully and with good control, the bird will drop to the ground – another one for the pot, or in this case the campfire grill.

If you haven’t tried wild quail before, I suggest you play around, cooking it with minimal flavours, to get a real feel for the taste of the meat. Well, that’s what I did anyway. These days, though, I like to mess around a bit, by experimenting with some companion flavours to make life more interesting. Not that quail really needs it, but hey, I’m just having fun.

I’m not sure exactly what it is that’s so alluring about cooking over a campfire, but it sure has me hooked. Maybe it’s simply that I have so many childhood memories of it that I get all nostalgic, or maybe it’s something innate in us humans, so raw and primitive. Either way, it’s part of me, and it’s probably part of you, too. Try this recipe with a few friends or your kids, all rugged up around an autumn campfire (check your council’s fire regulations first) while the birds simmer away and taunt you with their aromatics.


Quantity Ingredient
12 quail, spatchcocked, (see tip)
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
1 lemon, quartered
thyme sprigs, to garnish


Quantity Ingredient
2 jalapeno chillies
1 garlic bulb, cloves separated and peeled
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
3 tablespoons thyme, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons hot pimenton
pinch salt


  1. Start by making the marinade. Using a large mortar and pestle, crush the chillies, garlic, peppercorns and thyme until the mixture forms a bit of a rough paste, then stir in the olive oil, pimentón and salt.
  2. Rub the marinade all over the birds. Refrigerate them overnight then remove from the fridge when starting the campfire, to allow the meat to get to ‘room’ temperature.
  3. When the flames have calmed down a bit and a bed of coals has formed, pop the birds on a metal camp grill over the flames. (My grill isn’t very technical – it’s actually a steel wire shelf from an old oven that works brilliantly as a camp grill. Waste not!)
  4. Turn the birds a few times. They’ll take 15–20 minutes to cook, but bear in mind that every fire is different with regard to heat, so check your meat before you pull it off the flame. When you think they look ready, remove one and check it for well-done-ness by piercing one with a skewer or knife. If it drips red, keep cooking for a little longer, until it drips a bit clearer when pierced.
  5. When they’re all done, remove them from the fire and rest them on a metal tray for a few minutes. A bit of seasoning, a squeeze of lemon juice, a garnish of thyme, then on to the feasting.


  • To spatchcock the birds I use a pair of scissors. I place the under blade through the bottom hole (where I pulled the guts out) and poke it out at the neck. I then cut through the breastplate cleanly and open the birds out wide to cook evenly on both sides.
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