As a child I used to hate quince, my parents loved it and every time of the year quince would make its appearance, it would magically end up in my mom’s tagine. As a result I never showed any interest in quince and made sure I stayed away from them. Urgh.
A few years ago, while I was discovering one of life’s major pleasures: eating cheese and bread, I noticed that queso manchego (one of my favourites) worked beautifully with a weird brown jelly-like paste that was served in Spanish restaurants. After a quick investigation I found out that this brown paste was made of quince! For real! It’s even called “queso de membrillo” which means “cheese of quince”. I felt so bad for missing on all the quince tagines of my childhood that I decided to cook one and since then, quince and I are besties!
Now, if you tell me “tagine” I would tell you “what else do we need to comfort us during these colder days?” but if you tell me “quince tagine” I would just start jumping of excitement.
This tagine is cooked the “mkalli way” which means it is mainly cooked with garlic, turmeric and dried ginger. It has plenty of onions to make sure we’ve got a good sauce to dip our bread in, the slow cooked lamb turns out succulent and the glazed quince pieces just make everything better. Comfort food at its best.
Lamb tagine with quince (Lamb Mkalli)
Serves 4 to 6
- 4 large onions (about 800 gr), chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic (about 4 cloves)
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
- Generous pinch saffron
- 1.2 kg lamb neck fillets (or any type of stewing meat) trimmed and cut in 5 cm pieces
- 1 large coriander bouquet, tied and more for garnish
- 3 large quinces
- 40 gr unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons honey
• In a large casserole, heat the olive oil and add the onions over medium heat. Cover with a lid and leave the onions until they are soft and translucent, about 10 min. This will allow sweating the onions.
• Once you’ve sweated the onions, add the garlic, the spices and the meat. Cook for 5 to 7 min turning the meat occasionally.
• Pour a cup and half of water (320 ml) in the casserole and place the coriander bouquet on top of the meat. Bring to the boil and cover with a lid over medium low heat. Leave to simmer gently for 1h30 or until the meat is soft and separates easily. Stir occasionally.
• Meanwhile, peel, quarter and half the quince discarding the core. Make sure you cut pieces of equal size, otherwise they won't cook evenly.
• Directly place the quince pieces in a large skillet and top them water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low, cover with a lid and leave to simmer for 40minutes. Start checking for doneness after 35 minutes. We want to make sure we don’t over cook our quince pieces, once they are soft enough to insert a knife, remove them from the heat and drain them.
• Once the meat is cooked and when ready to serve, warm up the butter and the honey in a large pan over medium heat and transfer in the pieces of cooked quince. Glaze each piece of quince on each side for 2 minutes until lightly golden. Serve immediate with the lamb and the onion sauce.
• Garnish with coriander. Enjoy with a side of couscous or crusty bread.
• Once peeled and cleaned place your quince pieces in a large bowl filled with water to prevent them from turning brown.
• If halfway through cooking the meat you notice there is almost no liquid left in the casserole, add a few tablespoons (or 1/4 a cup) of water to avoid the tagine from drying out and sticking to the pan.