• Mastic-spiced quails, feta pomegranate and watermelon salad (Alpha)Source: Alpha

The salad in this dish was inspired by a snack of feta and watermelon my dad and I ate often. Mastic is a spice, with hints of cedar or pine, that is produced solely on the island of Chios.






Skill level

Average: 3.3 (18 votes)


Candied watermelon rind

  • 250 g caster sugar
  • 250 ml (1 cup) white wine vinegar
  • 125 ml (½ cup) verjuice
  • 100 ml lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp white peppercorns
  • 2 star anise
  • 4 cloves
  • 300 g watermelon rind, outer green skin removed, rind roughly cut into 10 cm squares
  • 300 ml water 


Mastic-spiced quails

  • ½ tsp mastic (see Note)
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 75 ml Samos muscat (see Note)
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 tsp dried Greek oregano
  • ½ tsp dried mint
  • ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 100 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp thyme honey 
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1 large lemon, zested and juiced
  • 6 large quails, butterflied, breast bones and wing tips removed, halved


Pomegranate dressing

  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1 tbsp thyme honey
  • ½ tsp sumac
  • 100 ml extra virgin olive oil


Watermelon salad

  • 2 cups seedless watermelon, cut into 2 cm cubes
  • 120 g sheep's milk feta, cut into 1 cm cubes
  • ½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
  • 2 red eschalots, finely diced
  • 1 pomegranate, seeds removed
  • 100 g slivered almonds, lightly roasted
  • 1 bunch mint, leaves roughly chopped
  • ½ bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves roughly chopped
  • ⅓ cup diced candied watermelon rind (from above) (optional) 

Cook's notes

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.


Marinating time: 1 hour

Candied watermelon rind (optional): 2½ hours

For candied watermelon rind, bring all of the ingredients, except the water to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the rind and simmer for 2 hours. Remove the rind from the syrup and set aside in a small non-reactive bowl.

Reduce the syrup by half, then pour over the rind, allow to cool and refrigerate until needed.

For the mastic-spiced quails, combine the mastic and salt and grind to a fine powder. Set aside 2 teaspoons of mastic salt for the marinade.

Place the muscat in a small saucepan over medium heat and reduce by half. Set aside to cool.

Place the remaining ingredients, except the quail, into a large bowl and whisk to combine.

Place the quail into the marinade and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 220ºC.

Heat two large ovenproof frying pan over high heat until very hot. Remove quails from marinade (discard marinade) and carefully place, skin-side down, into the pan, and cook for 1 minute. Turn over and transfer to the oven to roast for 8-10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and set aside until needed.

For the pomegranate dressing, whisk together the lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, honey and sumac. Continue whisking as you incorporate the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper, set aside until needed.

For the watermelon salad, combine all the ingredients for salad with the dressing.

Divide the salad among plates and top with the quail.


Chef’s notes

• Mastic, sumac, pomegranate molasses and thyme honey can be purchased at any good Greek and/or Middle Eastern delicatessen.

• Samos muscat is a dessert wine from the island of Samos. If unavailable, an Australian botrytis riesling would make a great substitute. It can be purchased from Greek wine importers or fine wine suppliers (including Miloway Wine, in Sydney) and Flox Wines in Melbourne.


Photography, styling and food preparation by China Squirrel


Peter Conistis is the head chef at Alpha. This recipe is from The Chefs' Line - a brand new series airing weeknights at 6pm on SBS. Can the passion of a home cook beat the skills of a professional chef? Missed all the action? Catch-up online and get all the recipes #TheChefsLine.

This recipe has been edited by SBS Food and may differ slightly from the series.