Monday, December 26, 2005

It Worked! Stew of Quinces and Lamb with Saffron and Split Peas

Let's begin by giving credit where credit is due. It goes to Elizabeth Schneider from the 1986 classic, Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables: A Commonsense Guide. Ms. Schneider has gone further to credit Mrs. Simin Samiy of the Caspian Tea Room in Washington, D.C., an Iranian style restaurant/ pastry shop that as best we can ascertain no longer exists. However, we would like to credit Ms. Schneider for authoring what, in our opinion, is one of the greatest cookbooks ever written. We cannot imagine any way to improve upon the recipe pictured above and publish it here just as she did. As anticipated, this wonderful stew graced our table on Christmas Eve with enough left to be served as a side dish at Christmas dinner. It should be served with white long-rain rice, preferably imported basmati.

1 large onion, coarsely diced
1 tablespoon light vegetable oil
2 1/4 pounds lean stewing lamb in large pieces
About 3 Cups
About 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Pepper to taste
3 fragrant quinces---- 1 1/2 to 2 pounds
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup yellow split peas, picked over and rinsed
About 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
About 1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 to 1/2 (we used 1/3) teaspoon saffron threads in 2 tbs. boiling water
Long-grained rice for serving, preferably basmati
1. In a heavy flameproof casserole over moderate heat stir onion in oil until browned. Add meat and brown on all sides. Add water, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and pepper. Simmer gently, covered for 1/2 hour.
2. Meanwhile, quarter quinces and cut out every bit of the cores and seeds. Cut into 1/8 to 1/4 inch slices. Saute over moderate heat in a very wide skillet in the butter until lightly colored--about 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Add quinces, split peas, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 2 teaspoons sugar to the lamb. Bring to a boil, then turn to lowest heat. Add saffron liquid..Cook partly covered, until the peas and lamb are tender---about 1 hour, stirring gently every now and then. You may have to cook a little longer or add a little water; keep testing.
4. Adjust lemon juice, sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Cook, then cover and refrigerate until serving time.
Note: Like most stews, this one improves if allowed to mellow a day or two before serving. Skim off fat before reheating.