Quails’ eggs are not much bigger than an acorn, and with their speckled shells they’re undeniably cute. But are they fiddly to prepare? And what do they taste like and what can you do with them?
A quail’s egg has a higher yolk to egg white ratio than a hen’s egg. They cook more quickly because they are smaller and the white remains tender and the texture creamy. The taste is similar, though some say it’s richer and slightly nutty. They will keep for several weeks at room temperature, and up to 6 weeks refrigerated.
Nutritionally, they’re pretty much the same as hens’ eggs, being higher in some nutrients and less so in others, so they even out, although it’s worth noting they have about twice the iron and B12 of hens’ eggs, but more than double the amount of cholesterol.
Let’s get them cooked then.
Quails’ eggs can be boiled, fried, scrambled, poached, made into an omelette or frittata, and used in baking. When scrambling quails’ eggs or making an omelette or frittata, or using them in baking, it doesn’t matter how you crack the shell and whether you break the yolk in the process, but for poaching and frying you need to take more care if you want to keep the yolks intact.
How do you crack a quail’s egg without breaking the yolk? Use a small sharp knife – I use a regular knife, though sometimes I opt for a serrated bladed knife and it works just as well – and tap the shell all around the middle of the egg with the blade, then gently press the knife through at one point to cut through the shell and the membrane, then break the egg apart with the thumbs letting the egg fall into a small bowl. Quails’ eggs can be shelled a day or two before you intend cooking them (cover and refrigerate), so do it when you have a quiet moment rather than right when you want to cook them.
Spice them up
Apart from frying and poaching, try them baked ‘en cocotte’ in ramekins with a spinach or mushroom cheese sauce base, or in dishes such as shakshuka or Tunisian eggs, nestled into spicy slow-cooked peppers with garlic and cumin.
By boiling, we mean simmering!
To boil eggs – and keep in mind by hard-boiled eggs we mean gently simmered eggs cooked until set, not hard – have eggs at room temperature to minimise shells cracking, put them on a wide slotted spoon or similar implement and gently lower them into a saucepan of gently boiling water. Cook for 4 minutes. Pour off the water, then let the cold tap run over them until they feel cool. They’re harder to peel than hens’ eggs, but here’s a tip to help. Gently tap each egg all over, cracking the shell. Remove a small amount of shell, breaking the thin sheath of membrane. Put the egg back in the pan with cold water and leave for several minutes. The water will seep in between the sheath and the egg white making it easier to slip off the peel.
Hard-boiled quails’ eggs are great dunked into flaky sea salt, spicy salt or dukkah, or swiped through mayo or salsa verde, or added to a vegetable curry just before serving or a spicy coconut sauce. Being small makes them the perfect choice for baby burgers and mini Scotch eggs.