Whenever reaching for a quail, I cannot help but imagine myself as the hungry fairytale ogre terrorizing the locals. Each wee bird becomes a pleading villager about to be torn limb from limb, and in this case dipped in a giant's pot of romesco sauce. Nooo! Noooo! Scrunch.
To make the romesco sauce, first preheat the oven to 240ºC/475ºF/Gas 9. Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds. Cut each half into 2 pieces and scatter over a baking tray. Cut the garlic bulb in half horizontally and add the bottom half (save the top for something else) to the peppers along with the tomato, cut into 4 wedges. Pour 1 tablespoon of the oil over the vegetables and turn them lightly to coat. Send them to the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Remove the garlic
and leave to cool. Continue roasting the peppers and tomato for a further 10 minutes. Exactly 5 minutes before removing them, slide a small sturdy baking tray sprinkled with the almonds into the oven and toast them to a rich golden colour. Remove the tomato, peppers and almonds from the oven.
Blitz the almonds and paprika in a food processor. Scrape the pepper flesh and tomatoes from their skins into the processor. Scoop the cooked garlic out of its skins and drop this in with the breadcrumbs, vinegar and remaining oil. Blend together well until as smooth as possible. You may need to remove the lid a couple of times to push the mixture down with a rubber spatula. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and season with plenty of salt. This sauce will certainly improve if it is made a day ahead and kept in the fridge until needed. Cover and leave to come to room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving.
Light the barbecue or preheat the grill. To prepare each quail, take
a pair of scissors and, holding the bird breast-side down in the palm of your hand, cut out the spine and discard it. Now put the bird on a board, breast side up, and flatten the breastbone by leaning on the bird and pressing down hard using the bases of your hands. Rub the birds generously with the sunflower oil and season well with salt and black pepper. When the barbecue glows with pulsing hot and orange white coals, lay the quails, breast-side up, on the barbecue and cook relatively close to the coals for about 6 minutes. Turn them over and cook the breast side for about 8 minutes more, moving them strategically to a cooler place on the barbecue if burning. (If cooking the birds indoors, preheat the grill to medium.
Sear the bird's first, breast-side down, in a heatproof frying pan over a high heat until browned 3-4 minutes. Put the pan under the grill and cook the back of the birds for about 5 minutes. Turn them over and finish cooking for another 3 minutes.) Whether cooked on the barbecue or grill, the quails juices should run clear when you push a knife into the thickest part of a thigh. Sit down to a small pile of tasty little birds smeared with plenty of sauce. Then lick your fingers like the ogre that has just eaten 6 farmers.