Celebrating the whole snapper, this Lebanese bake uses the homemade fish and onion stock for the cooking of the rice. It's an epic dish to celebrate incredible fish and the tarator of tahini and lemon juice will be hard to ignore when this Lebanese-style pilaf lands on the table.  Food Safari Water






Skill level

Average: 3.4 (77 votes)


  • 2 snapper bones, including heads, chopped into pieces that can fit into a pot
  • 5 fresh bay leaves
  • 4 carrots
  • 1 kg brown onions, thinly sliced
  • 1-litre high oleic sunflower oil
  • 150 g raw slivered almonds
  • 150 g raw pistachio kernels
  • 3 kg snapper fillet, skinned
  • Celtic sea salt
  • 500 g butter 
  • 1½ tbsp ground caraway seed
  • 1½ tbsp ground cinnamon 
  • 1½ tbsp ground cumin seed
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seed
  • 1 kg parboiled white rice
  • 685 ml (2 ¾ cups) lemon juice 
  • 270 g (1 cup) hulled tahini

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.


For the stock, place the snapper bones, bay leaves, carrots and half the onions in a large saucepan or stockpot. Add 3 ½ litres water and place over high heat. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain. Discard the solids and set the stock aside.

Heat the oil in a large deep saucepan over medium heat. Fry the nuts separately over until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towel and set aside to cool.

Add the remaining onions to the oil and fry until they are dark golden in colour. Take three-quarters of the onions out of the oil and drain on paper towel. Continue to cook the remaining onions until they start going black. Drain immediately. You want these just beginning to burn, but not be fully burnt. Drain on paper towel.

To cook the fish, preheat the oven to 200˚C. Add a few ladlefuls of the fish stock to a large baking tray. Place the snapper fillet into the baking tray, skinned-side down. Season with salt, then cover with baking paper and press onto the surface of the fish. Bake for about 20 minutes or until just cooked. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Measure 1.5 litres of fish stock into a large deep saucepan or stockpot. Add the darkest fried onions and simmer over medium heat until the stock turns dark. Strain and season with 1 tbsp salt.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the spices and fry for 1 minute. Add the rice and stir to coat. Add the strained onion stock and 375 ml (1½ cups) of lemon juice. Stir and bring to a rolling boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

To make the tarator, place the tahini and remaining 185 ml (¾ cup) lemon juice in a bowl and stir to combine. Stir in 185 ml (¾ cup) water and stir until smooth and well combined. It should be thin enough to pour but not be too watery. Season with salt to taste and check for acidity – it may need a little more lemon juice

To serve, break the fish into generous chunks. Add half the fish to the rice and mix together. Pour the rice onto a serving tray and spread out to an even thickness. Add the remaining fish and drizzle tarator all over the top. Sprinkle with the almonds, pistachios, pine nuts and fried crispy onions.


Photography by Sharyn Cairns. Styling by Lee Blaylock. Food preparation by Rachel Lane. Creative concept by Belinda So.

Maeve O'Meara is back in Food Safari Water airing 7.30pm Wednesday nights on SBS and then you can catch-up on all episodes via SBS On Demand. Visit the program page for recipes, videos and more.