I’ve just been to visit friends who have moved up to a village in Northamptonshire and came home with a very welcome bag of quinces. I used to have a quince tree and still miss having a plentiful supply, though I am glad to say that they are much easier to find in the shops these days. This is one of my favourite quince recipes, and goes down well even with those who profess not to like quince.
The recipe started with a Claudia Roden recipe from A New Book of Middle Eastern Food, and adds some split peas – an idea from a Persian recipe book given to me by my half-Persian sister-in-law. The split peas add body to the sauce, but you can omit them if you prefer. The original recipe doesn’t brown the meat and onions first, but I prefer the added taste and colour that browning gives. Claudia Roden suggests that you can sauté the quince in butter first for a richer flavour. I have made it successfully with pre-blanched quince slices (I used to prepare batches of these to store in the freezer when I had a glut).
1kg cubed stewing lamb (shoulder or leg are fine)
2 onions finely chopped
2 tbsp oil
Salt, black pepper and cayenne (or paprika)
60g split peas
1 bunch fresh coriander or parsley, chopped
Good pinch saffron (or ½ tsp turmeric)
½ tsp ground ginger
500g quinces, cut in halves (or quarters if large), cored but not peeled
Heat the oil in a casserole and brown the meat on all sides. Remove from the pan and cook the onion until soft and golden. Put the meat back into the pan, add the split peas, cover with water and season to taste with salt, black pepper and a little cayenne – use with discretion as it shouldn’t be too hot. Add the fresh coriander or parsley, saffron or turmeric and ginger. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Add the quinces and simmer for a further 30-45 mins until the meat and fruit are tender. Claudia Roden adds one of the chopped onions towards the end of the cooking period so it is just soft and retains its texture. Serve with rice.
You can also cook chicken in the same way, and use prunes instead of quince for a darker, even more luxurious stew.