This risotto-style dish combines the European influences of the Bekka Valley vineyards with a quintessential Lebanese winter dish.






Skill level

Average: 3.8 (9 votes)


  • 4 x 65 g free-range eggs
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp sabaht baharat (Lebanese seven spice) (see Note)
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • salt
  • 4 x 150 g jumbo quail
  • 15 parsley shoots, to serve

Duck awarma

  • 2 duck breasts, skin removed, chopped into 1 cm pieces
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 500 g duck fat
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 4 green cardamom pods, bruised
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 star anise


Smoked freekah risotto

  • 1.25 litres (5 cups) white chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped
  • 185 ml (¾ cup) white wine
  • 200 g smoked freekeh (see Note), soaked in water for 2 hours, drained
  • salt and black pepper
  • 40 g whole blanched almonds
  • 40 g walnuts halves
  • 25 g pine nuts
  • 250 g duck awarma
  • 50 g butter, diced
  • 1 small eggplant, roasted and peeled, flesh torn
  • ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
  • ¼ cup finely chopped coriander 
  • 60 g kefalograviera cheese (see Note), finely grated

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.


Soaking time 2 hours

To make the duck awarma, toss the duck meat with a generous pinch of salt. Combine the duck fat and spices in a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer, until about 80°C. Add the duck meat, stir to combine. Simmer very gently, stirring occasionally, for 1½–2 hours or until the duck is falling apart. If not using immediately, pack the duck meat and fat into sterilised jars and seal. The duck awarma can be made up to 1 month in advance.

To cook the eggs, preset a water bath with an immersion circulator to 64°C. Carefully place the eggs into the water bath and cook for 45 minutes. When ready to serve, remove an egg from the water bath, gently crack the shell and ease the egg into a small bowl.

If you don’t have an immersion circulator, fill a large saucepan with water and using a sugar thermometer, bring the water to 64°C. When the water temperature is stable, cook the eggs as above.

If you are not using the eggs immediately, place into an ice bath to cool. When ready to serve, place the eggs in a bowl of hot tap water for 10 minutes to reheat.

Meanwhile, to prepare the quail, preheat the oven to 220°C. Pound the garlic, sabhat baharat, olive oil and honey in a mortar and pestle until smooth. Season with salt.

Rub a little of the marinade inside each quail and truss with kitchen string. Pour the remaining marinade over the quails and toss to coat. Transfer the quails to a baking tray and set aside. When the freekeh risotto has 20 minutes left to cook, transfer the quails to the oven and roast for 8–10 minutes. Remove from the oven, cover and rest for 10 minutes. Remove and discard the kitchen string. Serve the quails whole (they will retain more moisture this way) in a serving dish and drizzle with pan juices.

To cook the freekeh, bring the chicken stock to the boil in a small saucepan, then reduce the heat to low.

Place a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and onion and cook, without colouring, for 3–4 minutes or until soft. Increase the heat to high, add the wine and cook until reduced by half. Add the freekeh and 1 ladle of stock. Cook, stirring, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the remaining stock, 1 ladle at a time, and cook, waiting stock to be absorbed before adding more, for 25–30 minutes or until the freekeh is tender and most of the stock has been used. Turn off the heat, cover and set aside.

Place another frying over medium-high heat and add ¼ cup of duck fat from the awarma. Cook the nuts, one type at a time, until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to the freekeh. Add the duck awarma to the fat in the pan and cook for 2–3 minutes or until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to the freekeh. Mix to combine the freekeh, nuts and awarma and season to taste.

Fold the butter, eggplant and herbs through the freekeh and spoon into a serving dish.

With the back of a spoon make four divets in the freekeh and place an egg in each. Scatter over the kefalograviera and decorate with parsley shoots. Serve with the roasted quails.



• Sabaht baharat is a blend of spices often referred to as Lebanese seven spice or simply baharat. You will find baharat in Middle Eastern grocery stores and at quality spice merchants.

• Smoked freekeh can be purchased from health food stores and specialty food suppliers. To smoke freekeh at home, line a wok with foil and place smoking chips on top. Place the wok over high heat until the chips begin to smoke. Place the soaked freekeh on a plate and sit on a rack inside the wok. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low and smoke for 20 minutes.

• Kefalograviera is a hard Greek cheese made from sheep and goat’s milk and is available from European delicatessens and quality cheese stores.