Safardjaliya (Tagine of Lamb with Quince)

I have already waxed poetic about the quince, one of my favorite fall and winter fruits. I have already sung the praises of lamb, an addition to my diet that I truly celebrate. I have already lauded saffron, that fancy spice that is replete with poetry. Thus, it only seemed natural that I make something that put those three together. How could I not?

While I did make this recipe last month (and it has just taken me some time to type it up here), it is one that I believe I will be coming back to again next fall. The rosy smell of the quinces while they boil and the savory sizzle of the lamb as it sautes are a perfect marriage of the senses. Once you combine the meat and the fruit in a pan with the mellowed ginger and the bitterness of saffron, this dish needs only a side of couscous or rice to make it pure perfection.

Finally, it's the Bay Area's equivalent of a snow day here. It has been raining and raining for hours. Admittedly, we thought it would rain a little harder, and certainly those north of Oakland are bearing the brunt of a brutal winter storm. However, school was cancelled (the second time I have ever had a snow day in 18 years of teaching in Colorado and California). It has been delightful. I woke to the howling of 40-mile-an-hour winds and a downpour of rain that soon dissipated to a steady shower. I made buttermilk pancakes and sipped tea. I have Christmas music playing and candles burning. I put on a pot of borlotti beans to cook all day in anticipation of a savory dinner. I plan to read The Goldfinch for hours.

This is how a snow day should feel.

Safardjaliya (Tagine of Lamb with Quince)

Serves 6

4 Tbsp butter or vegetable oil
2 pounds lamb stew meat (or shoulder) cut into large pieces
2 onions, sliced
salt and plenty of pepper
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 tsp saffron
2 pounds quinces
Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus 1 lemon
1 tsp cinnamon
3-4 Tbsp honey

1.  Heat the oil in a large pan. Saute the lamb and onions for about 5 minutes, softening the onions and browning the lamb. Add the salt and pepper, ginger, and saffron. Add enough water to cover the meat fully and simmer, covered, over low heat for 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is very tender, adding water if it becomes too dry. Remove the lid at the end to reduce the sauce.

2.  Wash and scrub the quinces.  Have ready a pan of boiling water with the juice of 1/2 of a lemon (the acid in the water keeps the quinces from browning). Cut the quinces into eighths. Do not peel them (but cut away the blackened ends). Drop the cut quinces into the boiling water. Simmer for 15-30 minutes (depending on the size of the quinces) until tender. The time varies greatly, and you should watch them to ensure that they are soft, but not mushy. Drain and when cool enough to handle, cut out the cores.

3.  Put the quinces in the pan with the lamb, flesh side up. Sprinkle with cinnamon and pour a little honey on each. Squeeze a little extra lemon over the stew. Cook for 5 more minutes, then turn the quinces over and cook a few minutes more. Serve warm.


By Popular Demand

Ottolenghi's Semolina, Coconut and Marmalade Cake

Ottolenghi's Lemon and Eggplant Risotto

Ottolenghi's Lamb Shawarma

Classic Frisée Salad (Salade Lyonnaise)

Ottolenghi's Salmon Steaks in Chraimeh Sauce