Yes, yet another quince recipe, but it’s a good one. Faced with a glut, I’ve been searching my historical British cookery books for a meat-and-quince recipe but can’t find one, which is odd when you think we’ve been cooking these gloriously perfumed fruits since medieval times. Our ancestors seemed to use them exclusively for sweet dishes but if you know different, I’d love to hear from you.
So today’s dish is based on the fragrant Persian/Iranian stew Khoresht-e Beh. I’ve seen this made with lentils, potatoes and with added dates. Sometimes lamb is used instead, or it’s meatless. This recipe goes down the fairly classic route of cooking beef and quince with yellow split peas. I’ve made it here with short ribs, although diced stewing beef would be the traditional choice. Feel free to substitute and amend the cooking time accordingly (half an hour less at the ‘stewing the meat’ stage if using shin).
Dried split yellow peas, like many pulses, can be a bit tricky when it comes to estimating cooking times. If you’re in any doubt about their age, either soak them overnight in cold water or boil them for a couple of minutes and let them sit in the water for an hour before draining and following the recipe.
This isn’t the most enticing picture in the world, sorry. I wish you could get a whiff of my kitchen instead.
Beef Short Ribs with Quince
4 beef short ribs (or 800g-1kg beef shin)
2-3 tbsp oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 tspn ground turmeric
1/2 tspn ground cumin
1/4 tspn cayenne
Pinch of saffron, crumbled, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes
1 heaped tbsp tomato concentrate (or 2-3 tbsp tomato puree)
8 cm piece of cinnamon stick
3 or 4 dried limes, slit in a few places with a sharp knife
1 tbsp honey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
200g yellow split peas, rinsed and picked over for grit, and soaked as above
500 ml water
2 medium-large quince, fluff washed off
Heat the oil in a deep casserole, one which has a lid and in which the ribs will sit snugly in a single layer. Fry the meat until browned all over. Remove and set aside.
In the same pan, fry the onions until translucent, scraping up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the turmeric, cumin and cayenne and cook for a minute. Add the tomato concentrate and cook for a few minutes more.
Pour in 500 ml water, add the cinnamon stick, dried limes, saffron and its soaking water, honey, a good grind of black pepper and a decent pinch of salt. Put the meat back in, bring to a boil, put on a lid and cook on a low-medium heat for an hour and a half.
Now add the drained split peas. I found it easiest to remove the meat briefly, stir in the peas, then snuggle the ribs back down. Put the lid back on and cook for another 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the peas are nearly tender. At the end of this time check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. If the mixture looks too wet, remove the lid and cook some of it off.
Peel, quarter and core the quince and cut into thick wedges. Do this at the last minute so they don’t turn brown. It’s traditional to leave the skins on, presumably so they don’t break up too much, but I prefer them peeled. Your choice.
Tuck the quince chunks into the stew. Put the lid back on and cook for a further 20-30 minutes until the quince and split peas are tender. Mind the peas don’t catch! Serve with rice.