“Chef and restaurateur Elena Bonnici’s eclectic style of cooking is a reflection of her melting pot of a Maltese-Middle Eastern-Italian heritage. From her restaurant United Arab Eatery in Melbourne, Elena shows Rachel how her diverse cultural upbringing has inspired her playful fusion of flavours.” Rachel Khoo, Rachel Khoo's Kitchen Notebook Melbourne
- 6 quails, cleaned, wing-tips clipped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 125 ml (½ cup) honey
- 125 ml (½ cup) pomegranate molasses
- 1 cup good quality sea salt
- 3 tbsp coriander seeds, roasted and ground
- 500 ml (2 cups) vegetable oil
- extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- 2 litres chicken stock
- 125 ml (½ cup) pomegranate molasses
- 60 ml (¼ cup) honey
- 1 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds, roasted and ground
- 1 bay leaf
- 1½ red chillies
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds, roasted and ground
- 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
- pinch of salt
- 960 g (8 cups) chickpea flour (see Note)
- 1 cup watercress sprigs
- ½ cup pomegranate seeds
- 2 radishes, very thinly sliced and soaked in iced water until needed
- ½ lemon, juiced
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Chilling time 1 hour
To make the master stock, place the stock in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Add the quail to the stock and gently poach for 5-6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stand the quails in the liquid until cooled to room temperature, then transfer to a container and refrigerate until just before serving.
Meanwhile, to make the panisse, place 4 litres water in a large saucepan. Add the garlic, ground cumin, olive oil and salt and bring to the boil over high heat. Remove the pan from the heat, and whisking continuously, gradually add the chickpea flour and whisk until well combined. Return the pan to low heat and cook, stirring regularly for 10-15 minutes or until the consistency is thick and bubbling like lava. Pour the thickened panisse into a well-oiled 15 x 30 cm shallow tray and stand until cooled to room temperature, then refrigerate until set.
Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Remove the quails from the stock, then cut in half and pat dry on paper towel. Combine the honey and molasses in a small bowl and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large oven-proof frying pan. Once the oil is hot, add the quails, skin-side down and cook for 2 minutes, then add the glaze. Toss them thoroughly in the glaze to coat, then transfer the pan to the oven and cook for 5-6 minutes to caramelise. Remove from the oven and stand in a warm place to rest while you fry the panisse.
While the quail are in the oven, mix the sea salt and ground coriander in a small bowl. Cut the panisse into 4 cm cubes (see Note) and pat with paper towel.
Place the vegetable oil in a deep, heavy-based and heat to 180ºC. Deep-fry the panisse, in batches for 4-5 minutes or until golden and crisp. Drain on paper towel and toss with coriander salt while hot. When cooked perfectly, they should be custardy still on the inside and golden and crisp on the outside.
For the watercress salad, toss all the ingredients in a bowl with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and season with a little coriander salt.
To assemble, place two cubes of the panisse on a plate, add the watercress salad, the 2 quail halves each. Scatter with extra pomegranate seeds and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil
• Also known as besan or gram, chickpea flour can be found in most Indian and specialist food stores.
• The panisse will make more than you need, but it will keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.
Photography by Prue Ruscoe. Styling by Lucy Tweed. Food preparation by Leanne Kitchen. Creative concept by Lou Fay.
Jars Cantine grey plate from Williams-Sonoma. Society napkin from Ondene. Glass from Riedel. Concrete wallpaper from Eurowalls.