A little October feast


Paris looks so pretty in the fall, the perfect backdrop for leisurely strolls through the streets, balades along the Seine & romantic stops at cozy bistros, which is in fact among of our favorite things to do on weekends – except perhaps for the fact that with little kids, it´s many things, but never leisurely and rarely romantic, at least not in a classic sense ;-).

Last saturday, however, I wasn´t really in the mood for the big city. Some days, crowded streets, lots of people and heavy traffic just isn´t for me (and even if you know of the more quiet places, you somehow have to get there). That´s why my husband and kids went to town alone, leaving me with a few unexpected hours on my own. Usually, this is the time when I do some workout or just settle boring stuff around the house, pretending to be oh so dutiful and busy. Sometimes, I just sit down and read. But what I really love about those moments is that there really is no better time to cook.vines-windmillpan-seared-quailsOn Saturdays, there also happens to be a little market down our street, small, unpretentious, but full of delicacies and gourmandises – there´s always something to discover, and I´m there within 5 minutes by foot. These days, the stalls are flooded with grapes: green ones, purple ones, with pépites (kernels) or without, Chasselas, Muscat, so  many varieties to your heart´s desire. The sheer sight of them made me long for sun drenched vineyards and golden October days spent in the countryside, so I bought everything I needed for a little autumn feast.

On this special day (and by definition, weekends always are, aside from all those other special days ), I opted for quails, which pair wonderfully with something sweet, so why not with golden raisins –  I always have some at home as my daughter and I love them as a snack. For the sauce, I used Pineau de Charentes, an apéritif made of grape juice and cognac – if you can´t find it, port might be a good alternative. Coming home with far too many grapes, I used a good bunch to whip up a lovely grape sorbet (ok, it´s a sherbet, but no one uses that word), slightly adapted from this recipe I once discovered over at David Lebovitz gorgeous blog. It turned out a light and fragrant ending to a meal that felt (almost) like a walk in the vineyards on a sunny autumn day … just with a few extra calories. It´s easy not to miss summer when autumn can taste that good.

Pan seared quail breast and thighs with Pineau de Charentes sauce (serves 2-3):
4 quails
50 g raisins blonds (or a small handful of sweet seedless grapes, halved)
100 ml Pineau de Charentes (or port)
a few sprigs of thyme, leaflets plucked
salt & pepper
butter and olive oil for frying

Unless the quail is ready to cook, remove giblets and cut off the heads. Rinse under cold water and pat dry inside and out. Position quails breast side up and, with a long, sharp knife, make an incision on both sides of the sternum, very close to the bone. Cut the breasts, then the thighs from the carcasses (save them for a broth, see below). Season poultry with salt and pepper.

In a large frying pan, heat about 1 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp olive oil. Over high heat, fry breasts and thighs starting skin side down until browned from both sides (flipping once), about 5 minutes. Add the wine and raisins (you can soak them in the Pineau for 15 minutes if you want), reduce to about half.

Add thyme, adjust seasoning and serve immediately with oven roast potatoes and parsnips (Sliced, generously tossed in olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and 1 tbsp of dried thyme and roasted for about 30 minutes at 180°C).

quails7If you don´t like to throw anything away, do as I do and make a simple broth with the carcasses:

Place carcasses in a large high sided pot, add water until just covered. Add a bay leaf, 4 juniper berries, 1 shallot with the skin on & 3 cloves (stick them into the shallot), 1 unpeeled carrot and a few sprigs parsley. Bring to boil. Spoon scum from the surface, simmer for 1h 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Discard bay leaf, juniper berries, shallot, parsley and carrot. Cut any remaining meat from the bones and return to the broth if desired, discard carcasses. Generously season with salt. My kids love this broth as a soup with peas and simple egg&flour dumplings, and it also makes a good base for risotto.


Grape sorbet (yields about 6 scoops, serves 3-4): slightly adapted from David Lebovitz
1 scant kg sweet seedless purple* grapes (yield 650 ml juice)
1 star anise, optional
3 heaped tbsp powdered sugar
1 good pinch fleur de sel
chopped pistachios for garnish

*of course, you can use green ones, but the color won´t be as nice (see last photo)!

In a saucepan, heat the grapes with 2 or 3 tbsp water and the optional star anise, and bring to a soft boil. Simmer until soft, about 10-12 minutes, squeezing with a fork from time to time to release the juices. Remove star anise (if using), strieve mixure through a fine meshed sieve, squeezing out as much as possible. I ended up with 650 ml juice – I found this a very useful tip David also included in his instructions, destined to those of you who prefer to use a good quality grape juice for the recipe. The yield of grapes with seeds, by the way, will of course be less: I ended up with 500 ml for 1 kg of grapes.

Add sugar and salt to the juice (more or less sugar depending on your taste and the sweetness of the fruit). Leave mixture to cool slightly, then transfer to the ice cream maker to churn according to instructions. Serve with chopped pistachios.



  1. My Aunt used to talk about ‘me time’ and declared that it is essential for a balanced soul. When you have young children I think that need is even more acute …. thank you for sharing your me-time and particularly for these divine recipes!


  2. I could just dive into this wonderful dish – love quail! and although I get there eggs very cheap in the shops, but have never seen the ‘bird’ – still searching for them! 🙂
    The other wonderful thing is that I can close my eyes and see myself and JS sitting on the warm sundrenched ground in the vineyard with a beautiful bottle of “the grapes”!!! 🙂 🙂 – thank you for sharing – Carina


  3. When I am in Paris I walk the Promenade Plantée because I always stay near it. Yes, Paris traffic is something else. I love quails and farmed quails are readily available in supermarkets here so I will make a meal of it soon. Your posts alway inspire! 🙂


  4. I can get quails here fresh and frozen and have had them in the past. It reminds me of the method how to eat them Brillat-Savarin describes in his book “The physiology of taste”, which is to pop the breast into one’s mouth while holding the quail by the hind legs. Granted, they are small, but not that small. I tried it once and failed. For one thing – the bones are still in the bird. It must have been a more masculine time then, right around the French revolution…
    Your sorbet/sherbet looks great, I love David Lebovitz’s concoctions and have prepared cholatey and salt caramel ice cream varieties to thunderous applause *g* . Seriously, I wish more people would spend time perfecting their recipes!


    1. Good morning Alex, couldn´t agree more on your last remark – trying to do things the best possible way,should always be a principle, in cooking and anywhere else! Perfecting recipes – if any recipe will ever can end up being perfect – is time consuming and the small differences aren´t always visible at a glance. David Lebovitz has proven to be a trustful source of both creative and more traditional recipes, son´t you think? I haven´t tried the chocolate&caramel ice cream, but given this is one of my favorite combinations aver, it´s time I should!
      As of the quail eating scene – priceless ;-)! Perhaps they had baby quails back then!


  5. Wow that looks so delicious – all of it. I also love some time alone to cook – and that’s what I am doing today. My husband harvested from the vegetable patch last night and I have rhubarb and eggplants and English Spinach and pale yellow beans to cook with. I am so inspired by your photographs. Thank you so much for sharing. margaret


    1. Good morning, Margaret – wow, that sounds like a cooking marathon you were up to !Hope everything turned out fabulously?! Must be wonderful to have all that into your own garden. We have a garden here in Paris, but “just” with flowers and kitchen herbs (and a tomato plant:-), but not a vegetable garden or orchard….. Wiching you a great day and weekend, Sabine


    1. Bonjour Esme! Thank you so much for your lovely words. I found the plates at the local brocante and I adore them, too! Quails are among my all time favorites, that´s why I wanted to share the recipe. Have a great week, and many greetings from rainy Paris!


  6. Quel délicieux festin Sabine! Le poulet et les pommes de terres sont irrésistibles et ta glace au raisin simplement semble être divine!
    Bonne semaine


  7. A lovely post, with lovely photos! I’m not well versed with quail – my husband hunts it but usually lets his friends take them home because he personally doesn’t want to eat quail! Love your sorbet as well!


    1. I really adore quail for its taste somewhere between poultry and game, plus it´s so quick & easy to prepare. Perhaps your husband can take a few home just for you from time to time ;-)? Such a great opportunity to get quail directly from the hunters!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you! I had made it with green grapes before which resulted in a pale sorbet – a bit boring, yet tasty – and was delighted, too, when this version turned out to be quite pretty 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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