I’ve revisited the paperbark method of cooking here, this time steaming up some juicy little quails with a couple of vegetables. I previously bought a roll of paperbark and used it to cook a whole barramundi, so rather than schlep all the way back to the Essential Ingredient to get more paperbark, I helped myself to one of the many melaleuca trees in my neighbourhood. The trees naturally shed their papery bark, so if you’re a bit of a tree-hugger, there’s no need to get flustered with me peeling a few layers off myself.
Cooking food in paperbark not only retains moisture, but it imparts a subtle smokiness to the food. I grabbed some pre-shelled fresh peas from my grocer, which I stuffed into the cavity of each quail. I also grabbed a bunch of baby carrots and nestled them in with the quails, keeping the feathery leaves to surround the quails so they don’t stick to the paperbark during cooking. You don’t eat the leaves when they’re cooked, unless you really want to.
To enhance the flavours of the little birds, I spiked some butter with finely chopped bush tomato and mountain pepper and rubbed it between the skin and breast. As it cooks, it melts and keeps the meat moist and tasty. I used dried and finely crushed mountain pepper leaves for their subtle yet earthy pepperiness. The bush tomatoes add a slight sweetness and bitterness, almost like regular sun-dried tomatoes.