Thursday, 21 October 2010

Lamb and quince tagine, and twice-cooked pears


If I ever find myself getting married, I hope it is a marriage like that of lamb and quinces: sweet, warm, rich, satisfying, perfectly balanced, slightly exotic, complementary to both parties, and never boring. (Just right with a bit of coriander; requiring a sharp knife; inedible when raw; only achievable during certain seasons - I think the marriage analogy falls down a bit here. Although I can tell you now that I refuse to marry anyone who doesn't like coriander). 

I've cooked lamb and quince tagine before, but this is a different recipe, from Nigel Slater's new book. It's basically the same as the one I usually use (Claudia Roden), except involves fresh ginger rather than ground. I think I actually prefer the fresh; it's more flavoursome. This is probably because I put in a piece about the size of my face. It mellows in the cooking process though (fortunately). The end result is fabulous: a fragrant, rather sweet sauce, lamb so tender you could swallow it without chewing, and soft, perfumed quinces. Just the thing to make the kitchen smell wonderful and inviting in the rather wintry weather we've been having lately. 

Tagines are generally very easy to make. Brown some diced lamb shoulder in a pan, remove and set aside. Add sliced onion and soften. Return the lamb to the pan, add a cinnamon stick, a generous amount of salt, a big pinch of saffron and a thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped. Pour in a couple of tablespoons of honey and cover the lamb with water. Partially cover with a lid and leave for at least an hour and a half - I left mine for two and a half. 20 minutes before you want to eat, peel, core and slice two large or three small quinces and add them to the pan until they are soft (don't stir too much or they'll disintegrate). Add more water/reduce the sauce to get it to the right consistency (I usually find that although it looks like a lot you can never have enough sauce, so more is better), stir in lots of chopped coriander, and serve with couscous. 

For dessert, pears. Conference and Comice. Peeled, cored and poached in a sugar syrup until approaching softness, then placed in the oven with a trickle of maple syrup and some vanilla extract until golden. Just right with some vanilla ice cream - you don't want to eat anything too filling after a tagine. Oddly, they tasted exactly like tinned pears, just a bit more maple-y. Maybe I shouldn't bother with the effort of peeling and coring nine pears next time, and instead just use the tinned variety...

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