Lamb Tagine with Quince (Lamb Mkalli with Quince)

As a child I used to hate quince, my parents loved it and every time of the year quince would make its appearance, it would magically end up in my mom’s tagine. As a result I never showed any interest in quince and made sure I stayed away from them. Urgh.

A few years ago, while I was enjoying one of life’s major pleasures: eating cheese and bread, I noticed that queso manchego (one of my favourites) worked beautifully with a weird brown jelly-like paste that was served in Spanish restaurants. After a quick investigation I found out that this brown paste was made of quince! For real! It’s even called “queso de membrillo” which means “cheese of quince”. I felt so bad for missing on all the quince tagines of my childhood that I decided to cook one and since then, quince and I are besties!  

Now, if you tell me “tagine” I would tell you “what else do we need to comfort us during these cold days?” but if you tell me “quince tagine” I would just start jumping of excitement.

This tagine is cooked the “mkalli way” which means it is mainly cooked with garlic, ground turmeric and dried ground ginger. It has plenty of onions to make sure we’ve got a good sauce to dip our bread in, the slow cooked lamb turns out succulent and the glazed quince pieces just make everything better. Comfort food at its best.  

Lamb tagine with quince (Lamb Mkalli with Quince)

INGREDIENTS

Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 large onions (about 800 gr), chopped 
  • 300 ml vegetable stock 
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic (about 4 cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
  • Generous pinch saffron 
  • 1.2 kg lamb neck fillets (or any type of stewing meat) trimmed and cut in 5 cm pieces
  • 1 large coriander bouquet, tied and more for garnish

Glazed quince

  • 3 large quinces
  • 40 gr unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons honey

METHOD

• In a large casserole, heat the olive oil and add the onions over medium heat. Cover with a lid and leave the onions until they are soft and translucent, about 15 min. This will allow sweating the onions. Add in the garlic, the spices and the meat. Cook for 5 to 7 min turning the meat occasionally.

• Pour the stock in the casserole and place the coriander bouquet on top of the meat. Bring to the boil and cover with a lid over medium-low heat. Leave to simmer gently for 1h30 to 2 hours or until the meat is soft and separates easily. tir occasionally.

• Meanwhile, peel, and quarter the quinces discarding the core. Make sure you cut pieces of equal sizes, otherwise they won't cook evenly. 

• Directly place the quince pieces in a large skillet and top them water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover with a lid and leave to simmer for 40minutes. Start checking for doneness after 35 minutes. We want to make sure that we don’t over cook our quince pieces, once they are soft enough to insert a knife, remove them from the heat and drain them. 

•  When ready to serve, warm up the butter and the honey in a large pan over medium heat and transfer in the pieces of cooked quince. Glaze each piece of quince on each side for 2 minutes until lightly golden. Serve immediately with the lamb and the onion sauce.

• Garnish with coriander. Enjoy with a side of couscous or crusty bread.

Notes

• Once peeled and cleaned place your quince pieces in a large bowl filled with water to prevent them from turning brown. 

• If halfway through cooking the meat you notice there is almost no liquid left in the casserole, add a few tablespoons of water to avoid the tagine from drying out and sticking to the pan.