A lush stew of quince and lamb infused with Levantine spices – and it’s just as good made with squash instead of the meat
Don’t be daunted by the fuzzy skin and hard flesh of quince – these autumn gems blush pink and turn sweet and fragrant with slow cooking. Lamb neck, a brilliantly affordable cut, also yields into soft, falling-apart fragments when it’s cooked slowly. Ras el hanout seems a fitting seasoning for the two together – a warming blend of ginger, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cardamom, nutmeg and even some rose petals.
Succulent pieces of lamb and quince become meltingly tender in this rich, fragrant stew.
Prep 25 min
Cook 2 hr 15 min
4 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and roughly diced
640g boned lamb, hogget or mutton neck fillet, cut into rough 2cm cubes
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 cinnamon stick
2 tsp ras el hanout
5cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 x 400g tin peeled plum tomatoes
2 tsp honey
250ml lamb or vegetable stock
3 medium quinces, peeled, quartered, cored and thinly sliced
2-3 medium carrots, washed and chopped into chunks
1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained
1 small handful fresh coriander leaves, to serve
1 small handful of toasted almonds, to serve
Warm half the oil in a large, deep pan set over a medium heat, then fry the onion gently with a few pinches of salt for eight to 10 minutes, until soft. Season the meat, turn up the heat under the pan and brown the lamb for four to five minutes, turning often, until it begins to take on some colour and taking care not to burn the onions.
Turn down the heat, add the garlic, cinnamon, ras el hanout and ginger, and cook, stirring, for a few minutes, until the mix smells fragrant. Before the garlic colours, add the tomatoes, honey and just enough stock to cover the meat so that it is peeking above the surface. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, cover and cook very gently for two hours, until the meat is soft and falling apart; if the stew starts to look dry, top up with more stock. (You can do all of this faster, and using less energy, in a pressure cooker.)
While the lamb is cooking, heat the remaining oil in a wide frying pan and saute the quince slices on both sides, until nicely browned. When the lamb has been cooking for an hour, stir in the carrots, chickpeas and quince.
When the meat has had two hours and is tender, and the quince soft, stir through the coriander and top with a sprinkling of toasted almonds. Serve with some herby couscous alongside.
Dice and roast a squash, and cook this in the sauce in place of the lamb, adding some spinach or other greens, if you like.