Friday, July 14, 2006

Weekend Herb Blogging #41

Kalyn has returned to host this edition of Weekend Herb Blogging and I'm back with another staple of the Italian kitchen.


Sage or Salvia as it was known in our house, has the most wondrous aroma, a sweetness of sorts that lingers to the touch. A perennial with pale green leaves that darken and turn silvery with age.

An old English proverb states that "he who would live for aye must eat sage in May" - it was believed that sage had restorative properties, a guard against ageing. Medicinally, sage is thought to help with energy level and memory problems and also aids with digestion due to it's tonic effect on the liver. Sage tea is still consumed today to help with nerves. It also has antiseptic properties, helpful for throat and mouth infections where it is used as a mouthwash.

Growing up one of my most favoured dishes involving sage was Saltimbocca. It was a real treat and something I loved helping to make. While my mother would slice the meat, we would help make the involtini, carefully placing the pieces of pancetta and sage upon the veal and rolling them up. Our mother watching closely, ensuring it was done right before the final part - toothpicks placed with expert precision to secure each parcel. The final product was a delight for the senses - every mouthful a pleasure and even just thinking about it now, I can still conjure it's taste.

So, today I'm not quite reliving these memories, I'm creating new ones. Armed with sage, I've made Quail Saltimbocca.


Quail Saltimbocca

fresh sage leaves
very fine slices of prosciutto

For the quail:
You need to bone the quails so each will give two breasts and two legs - you must just leave the leg bone intact - this creates a "handle" which makes this dish ideal as finger-food. If you don't feel like boning the quail, you can always get your Poulterer to do so.

I use scissors to cut out the backbone and then cut through the breastbone, giving two halves. You'll see that a natural break will form between the breast and thigh - just slice through that line and you'll end up with the four portions. The small bones of the rib cage can be removed easily with your fingers, in fact all the remaining bones can be done by hand.

Assemble the dish:

Place a large sage leaf on top of the skin side of each piece of quail - you can place a smaller leaf on the underside, especially on the leg portions where the thigh forms a tunnel. Wrap each quail portion tightly with the prosciutto. It's important that the prosciutto is cut as finely as possible to make the wrapping easier.


Don't make these too far in advance before you cook them as you have a raw meat mixing with a cured meat.

To cook:
Heat a little oil in a heavy based fry pan, when hot add the rolls and sear both sides until crispy (about 3 or 4 minutes) then place in a pre-heated 180°C/350°F oven and roast until the quail has cooked through.

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  1. Such an interesting sounding dish, and great photos. I love sage, and it always reminds me of my Grandma Denny who had a sage plant right by her back door. I have some in my herbs, but I'd like to try some other varieties.

  2. That is beautiful! I have a sage plant in the backyard that is doing quite well, but I never know what to do with it.

  3. Thanks Kalyn - a sage bush is lovely near the door as you get such a lovely aroma when you brush past it.

    Thanks Sara! - sage goes well with so many meats, shredded in a simple marinade will impart so much flavour. Use it as you would rosemary.

  4. Thanks Paz! You should be able to get quail from shops that specialise in poultry. They shouldn't be too difficult to find.

  5. great recipe. every time i visit my butcher i eye the quails and wonder what to cook. now i have a plan.

  6. Thanks Anna - do give it a try!

  7. All your photos are very good, but that bunch of sage is just a beautiful one.

    Food looks pretty damn good too :)

  8. Thanks so much Kes! I just love sage and wanted to put a little bit of that love in its photo, hopefully I succeeded.


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