Quince is an ancient fruit that finds its origin in the Mediterranean and Middle East region, which offers the perfect climate for the tree to flourish. Quince is quite tart, dense and aromatic, and is typically not eaten raw; it is rather cooked in stews or baked in desserts or jams.
The fruit is typically harvested in mid to late autumn before the first frost. Iranians particularly love this fruit because of its delicate rose scent as well as its tart flavor. As with most things tart in Persian cuisine, quince is celebrated and brought into balance with the addition of some sweetener.
For some, pumpkins mark the arrival of the fall season, while for me it has always been the first sighting of quince and pomegranate.
Khoresht-e Gheymeh ba Beh
- 1 large onion, diced
- 6 tablespoons olive oil, butter or ghee, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 lb lamb, shoulder or leg with bones
- 2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 quince, core and seeds removed and sliced into 1/2 inch slices
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron, dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 4-8 tablespoons sugar, adjust to your taste
- 2-4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, adjust to your taste
- Saute the onions in a large pot over medium heat with 2 tablespoons of oil for about 15 minutes. Add turmeric and continue to saute for 2 additional minutes. Remove from the pot and set aside.
- Add 2 additional tablespoons of oil to the same pot and saute the lamb for 5 minutes on medium high heat to lightly brown the meat.
- Return the onions to the pan, add water, cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes.
- While the stew is cooking, select a large frying pan and saute the quince slices with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat for about 6-8 minutes, flipping the slices once halfway.
- Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of sugar on top of the cooked quince and gently shake the pan to help spread the sugar on the quince slices. Remove from the heat, cover and set aside.
- After the initial 30 minutes of cooking the lamb stew, add salt, pepper, saffron water, cinnamon, sugar and lemon juice. Adjust the sweetness and tartness to your taste.
- Cover and continue to cook on low heat for an additional 30 minutes. Adjust the liquid as necessary, though keep in mind that this is a denser stew and should not be too watery.
- Gently arrange the sauteed quince on top of the stew and cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
- Carefully remove the quince from the top of the stew and set aside while you place the stew in a serving bowl. Return the cooked quince and arrange on top of the stew.
- Serve the stew with Persian steamed saffron rice.