The recipe for the prize winning dish of Greg Malouf, a Melbourne chef and prominent food writer.
Veiled quail with date rose-petal stuffing
8 x 200g jumbo quail 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 bushy sprigs rosemary, salt and pepper Stuffing: 100ml olive oil 1 small onion, finely diced 250g medium-grain rice About 400ml chicken stock 4 Medjool dates, seeds removed and diced (1cm) 1/2 teaspoon allspice 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon salt 2 bay leaves 40g flaked almonds 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 3 tablespoons rose petals Rose water 8 vine leaves 8 small fig leaves
Heat a third of the olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan and gently fry the onion until it softens for about three minutes. Add the rice to the pan and stir well to coat all the grains. Add the diced dates and pour on enough of the stock to cover the rice by two fingers' width. Add the spices, salt and the bay leaves, cover the pan and cook on a very low heat for 20 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender. While the rice is cooking, fry the almonds in the remaining olive oil until they turn golden brown. The almonds burn very easily, so stir them constantly.
When the rice is cooked, tip it out into a mixing bowl, remove the bay leaves, and fork it through with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. Then mix in the nuts, and 2 tablespoons of rose petals and let it cool down before you stuff the quail. When completely cold sprinkle with a tablespoon rose water. When you are ready to cook the quail, preheat the oven to 180°C. Stuff each bird with 2-3 tablespoons of the stuffing - you should pack it in reasonably tightly. Secure the skin at the opening with a toothpick and tie the legs together over the parson's nose.
Pour a little olive oil into a large roasting tin and brush the rest over the birds. Strip the rosemary needles from the twigs and scatter over the birds, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put the tin in the centre of the oven and cook for 10 minutes. Then pull the birds out of the oven, baste with the pan juices. Turn the oven down to 160°C/320°F/Gas Mark 3. Drape the vine and fig leaves over the quail, sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil and return to the oven to cook for a further 15 minutes. Serve with a sprinkling of rose water and the remaining rose buds.