My most vivid childhood food memory is a little embarrassing.
It was 1976 and I was five years old, flying 3000 metres above sea level with my parents as we migrated to Australia from Spain. I still remember the funny little white box with a big red ''K'' on the front. Kellogs had not yet made it to Spain, so we thought the box of cereal was a funky new type of potato chip. The Australian sitting across from us laughed when he saw us munching on the flakes straight from the box.
Unfortunately I have few childhood memories from Spain; I was too young when we left. I do recall one incident six months before we left for Australia. It was a quick ride on my dad's scooter, all three of us wedged on the seat, no helmets. We drove into the hills above Cordoba, where dad made a little fire and placed two small quails on a skewer and balanced it over the coals.
I can still taste the charcoal flavour of those succulent birds and smell the wild fennel and the pine trees.
FOR THE QUAILS
4 large quails
1 tbsp juniper berries
1 bunch thyme
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
To flatten the birds, cut along either side of the back bone with scissors. Discard the backbone, then place birds on a board breast-side up and press down firmly on the breast with the palm of your hand. Use your fingers to gently pull away the rib cage and breast plate, then place birds in a bowl.
Remove the rind from the lemons using a vegetable peeler. Add the peel to the birds and set fruit aside. Roast the juniper berries in a moderate 170C oven for 5 minutes, allow to cool a little then crush with the flat part of a knife. Add berries to birds. Add thyme leaves, discarding stems. Add garlic and olive oil, then mix well with your hands. Cover with plastic wrap and, if possible, refrigerate for a few hours. Otherwise, cook immediately.
The birds are best cooked over charcoal on a hot grill, but you can also use a gas barbecue or heavy metal grill over a gas flame. Place the quails skin-side down on a searing grill, squeeze over the juice of one lemon and season with salt. Cook for 3 minutes then turn, season again and squeeze over remaining lemon. Cook for another 3 minutes, remove and allow to rest for a few minutes.
FOR THE SALAD
12 medium carrots
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 large handful mint, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp fennel seeds, roasted and roughly chopped
1 handful parsley, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
100ml extra virgin olive oil
60ml white wine vinegar
Put the carrots into a large saucepan, unpeeled and whole. Cover with cold water and add a pinch of salt. Bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the carrots are almost cooked. Remove from the water. When the carrots are cool enough to handle but still a little warm, peel away the skin with a sharp knife and cut them into 1cm slices. Place in a bowl and add oregano, mint, lemon juice, fennel seeds, parsley, garlic, olive oil and vinegar. Season with sea salt. Serve at room temperature with the quails.
Barcelona-born Frank Camorra is chef and co-owner of Melbourne's MoVida Bar de Tapas. MoVida Sydney will open next month.