A close up of a quail casserole with small white onions and green herbs

Macedonian pilinja pecheni (braised quail)

  • serves 4
  • Easy

This Macedonian recipe pan-fries quail in butter, then simmers and roasts the meat in a rich red wine and onion stock. If you can’t find quail, substitute for poussin or chicken thighs


This pilinja pecheni recipe is adapted from Macedonia – The Cookbook, Katerina Nitsou (Kitchen Press, £20). Katerina says: “Game birds are quite popular in Macedonia. They can be found in the lowlands and open fields, particularly in Pelagonia. If you can’t find quails, you can substitute poussin or chicken thighs – just adjust the oven time accordingly. Serve with a rice pilaf or roast potatoes.”



  • butter 30g, softened
  • sea salt flakes ½ tsp
  • paprika ¼ tsp
  • ground nutmeg ¼ tsp
  • quails 4, backbones removed, spatchcocked
  • red wine 240ml
  • small peeled pearl onions 16 (frozen and defrosted are fine)
  • flat-leaf parsley finely chopped, to serve


  • Step 1

    Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. In a small dish, mix together the butter, salt, paprika and nutmeg. Smear the butter mixture all over the quails.

  • Step 2

    Heat an ovenproof frying pan (preferably cast iron) over a high heat and brown the quails for 2-3 minutes on each side or until the skins just turn golden brown. Remove and set aside.

  • Step 3

    Reduce the heat to medium and pour the wine into the pan. Add the onions and simmer for 4-5 minutes or until the wine has reduced by half.

  • Step 4

    Return the quails to the frying pan and roast in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until just cooked through. Sprinkle with some chopped parsley and serve immediately.

This pilinja pecheni recipe is adapted from Macedonia – The Cookbook, Katerina Nitsou (Kitchen Press, £20). Photographs by Oliver Fitzgerald. 

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Nutritional Information

  • Kcals 323
  • Fat 19.4g
  • Saturates 7.6g
  • Carbs 3.2g
  • Sugars 2.6g
  • Fibre 1g
  • Protein 22g
  • Salt 0.9g