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Lamb-Stuffed Quince with Pomegranate and Cilantro

(recipe, Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi)

Introduction

This is a stunning dish that we always go back to. We regularly teach a simplified version in our Saturday-morning classes at Leiths cookery school in London. There, we don't stuff the quince, but just dice it and cook it in the sauce with the meat filling shaped into meatballs. We recommend doing that if you don't have the time or the inclination to stuff the quince (it is a pretty hardy fruit!). You could use hard pears as an alternative. Another variation is based on a Persian dish, khoresht beh, which calls for lamb or beef cubes, chopped onion, cinnamon, nutmeg, sliced quince, lemon juice, and sugar. All these are cooked together very slowly to make a sweet and sharp stew.

Ingredients

  1. 14 oz. ground lamb
  2. 1 garlic clove, crushed
  3. 1 red chile, chopped
  4. ⅔ oz. cilantro, chopped, plus 2 Tbsp. for garnish
  5. Scant ½ cup bread crumbs
  6. 1 tsp. ground allspice
  7. 2 Tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
  8. 2 medium onions, finely chopped (1⅓ cups total)
  9. 1 large free-range egg
  10. 4 quince (2¾ lb. total)
  11. Juice of ½ lemon, plus 1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  12. 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  13. 8 cardamom pods
  14. 2 tsp. pomegranate molasses
  15. 2 tsp. sugar
  16. 2 cups chicken stock
  17. Seeds of ½ pomegranate
  18. Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Steps

  1. Place the lamb in a mixing bowl along with the garlic, chile, cilantro, bread crumbs, allspice, half of the ginger, half of the onion, egg, ¾ teaspoon salt, and some pepper. Mix well with your hands and set aside.
  2. Peel the quince and halve them lengthwise. Put them in a bowl of cold water with the juice of the ½ lemon so that they do not turn brown. Use a melon baller or small spoon to remove the seeds and then hollow out the quince halves so that you are left with a ⅔-inch shell. Keep the scooped-out flesh. Fill the hollows with the lamb mix, using your hands to push it down.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan for which you have a lid. Place the reserved quince flesh in a food processor, blitz to chop well, and then transfer the mixture to the pan along with the remaining onion, ginger, and the cardamom pods. Sauté for 10 to 12 minutes, until the onion has softened. Add the molasses, the 1 tablespoon lemon juice, sugar, stock, ½ teaspoon salt, and some black pepper, and mix well.
  4. Add the quince halves to the sauce, with the meat stuffing facing upward, lower the heat to a gentle simmer, cover the pan, and cook for about 30 minutes. At the end the quince should be completely soft, the meat well cooked, and the sauce thick. Lift the lid and simmer for a minute or two to reduce the sauce if needed.
  5. Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with the cilantro and pomegranate seeds.