Really simple, no waste, no leftovers, and very festive. The only thing you do have to make an effort with is the chicken stock. Make your own if possible – it has a much better flavour than anything you can buy. And it is Christmas, so it’s worth going that extra mile. You can make the sauce the day before and just reheat it before serving.
Mix the marmalade, 4 tbs of the whisky, orange juice, salt and pepper together – use the back of a spoon to break the marmalade down. Spoon over the quails, both inside and outside. Cover loosely and leave to marinate for a couple of hours (or you can leave them overnight).
Preheat the oven to 220 C.
To make the stuffing melt the butter in a medium sized frying pan and sauté the onion until soft and golden. Add the other stuffing ingredients and mix well. Stuff each quail with the mixture – it’s a sticky affair doing this but possible. Wrap each bird in a piece of bacon, season with pepper and put in a small roasting tin. Spoon the marinade over the birds again. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes.
While the birds are roasting, make the sauce. Boil the stock until it is reduced to 200ml. Melt the butter and sugar in a pan and heat until they caramelize, then add the whisky and reduce by half. Now pour in the orange juice and boil until reduced by half. Add the reduced chicken stock to the orange and whisky mixture and bring to the boil together. Taste for seasoning – you shouldn’t need to add anything – and strain through a sieve.
Serve the birds – which should be quite dark and glossy - with a few spoonfuls of the sauce and offer the rest in a warmed jug.
It might seem a bit austere but, really, all you need on the side with this is a some lightly dressed watercress leaves and something starchy. I like a pilaf of brown and wild rice with some soaked dried cranberries stirred through it, but you may prefer a few perfectly roasted potatoes.