This weekend I read a very interesting article in the New York Times Magazine about spices and their ability to transport you through the direct link between our olfactory senses and memory. It resonated with me because of my connection with all of the recipes in Jerusalem. They’ve cast their spell upon me in such a way that each time I sit down to eat these dishes, my apartment feels more like “home” than “a home.” I’m at once struck by the familiarity and foreignness of the dishes, left to guess whether the familiar aspect comes from the quality of the dishes and the foreign lies in the amalgam of spices or vice versa.
I had to make this dish because I finally found quinces in my local market! The interesting part about this dish is that I make a Latin version of it, chopping up the quince instead excavating their cores for stuffing. My Colombian mother in law serves us quinces a lot in the form of jams, pastes and sauces. I buy them at the Latin market when I can get there, but they’re more scarce in mainstream markets. When I saw this recipe online, I had to give it a go. It combined both of my worlds and serves as an excellent bridge for my move into some more Latin inspired dishes. The sweet and savory are packaged in a sophisticated classic that leaves your salivary glands spewing.
Another Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi adapted from recipe as printed in The Province.
- 400 g (14 oz) ground lamb — here I use turkey
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 red chili, chopped
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) chopped cilantro, plus 30 ml (2 tbsp) for garnish
- Scant 125 ml (1/2 cup) breadcrumbs
- 5 ml (1 tsp) ground allspice
- 30 ml (2 tbsp) finely grated fresh ginger, divided
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped (325 ml/1 1/3 cups in total), divided
- 1 large free-range egg
- 4 quince (1.3 kg/2 3/4 lb in total)
- Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus 15 ml (1 tbsp) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 45 ml (3 tbsp) olive oil
- 8 cardamom pods
- 10 ml (2 tsp) pomegranate molasses
- 10 ml (2 tsp) sugar
- 500 ml (2 cups) chicken stock
- Seeds of 1/2 pomegranate
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a mixing bowl, place lamb, garlic, chili, 125 ml (1/2 cup) cilantro, breadcrumbs, allspice, half the ginger, half the onion, egg, 3 ml (3/4 tsp) salt and pepper to taste. Mix well with your hands and set aside.
Peel quince and halve them lengthwise. Put them in a bowl of cold water with the juice of the 1/2 lemon so that they do not turn brown. Use a melon baller or small spoon to remove seeds and hollow out quince halves so that you are left with a 1.5-cm (2/3-inch) shell. Set scooped-out flesh aside. Fill hollows with lamb mixture, using your hands to push it down.
Heat olive oil in a large frying pan for which you have a lid.
Place reserved quince flesh in a food processor, blitz to chop well, then transfer to pan along with remaining onion and ginger. Add cardamom pods. Saute for 10 to 12 minutes until onion has softened. Add molasses, 15 ml (1 tbsp) lemon juice, sugar, stock, 2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt and black pepper to taste and mix well.
Add quince halves to sauce, with the meat stuffing facing upward. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer, cover pan and cook for about 30 minutes. The quince should be completely soft, the meat well cooked and the sauce thick. Remove lid and simmer for a minute or two to reduce the sauce if needed.
Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with 30 ml (2 tbsp) cilantro and pomegranate seeds.