Quince and Lamb Stew

Safarjaliyeh

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A sprinkle of dried mint ties together the aroma and flavor of the sweet quince combined with the sour notes of pomegranate molasses and tomato paste. For Sawsan, all these ingredients create a magnificent symphony of tastes. You can serve safarjaliyeh with kibbeh or add kibbeh directly to the pot. (Safarjaliyeh with chickpea-size bulgur balls and kibbeh is called Analı, Kızlı, which means “Mothers and Daughters” in southeastern Turkey.) Some cooks use chicken rather than lamb.

Ingredients

  • Water, for the quinces
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 kilogram quinces
  • 150 grams ground lamb fat (optional)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (6 to 7 cm/2¼ to 2 ¾ inches)
  • 2 to 3 cloves (to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon (2 grams) Aleppo spice mix (Al-Bhar Al-Halabi), plus more for serving (see note)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 to 8 cardamom pods (to taste)
  • 2 kilograms lamb shanks or 1.2 kilograms boneless leg of lamb, cut into 4- to 5-cm (1 ½- to 2-inch) chunks
  • 1 onion (250 grams), peeled but left whole
  • 4 cups (945 milliliters) hot water
  • 2 tablespoons crushed garlic (20 grams)
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint
  • 1 teaspoon (4 grams) salt
  • 7 cups (1650 milliliters/1 kilogram) fresh pomegranate juice (or 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses mixed with 7 cups of water)
  • 7 cups (1650 milliliters/1 kilogram) tomato juice (or 1 tablespoon tomato paste mixed with 7 cups of water)
  • ½ teaspoon sour salt (or 2 tablespoons/5 grams lemon juice)

Method

Fill a large bowl about halfway with water, then add the lemon juice. Peel, quarter, and core the quinces, then cut each quarter in half widthwise, so that you have 8 quince pieces. Drop the chunks into the bowl as you work (to prevent discoloration).

Cook the ground lamb fat in a large pot set over medium heat for 15 minutes. (If you’re not using the lamb fat, warm 3 tablespoons of oil for a few minutes and proceed.) Add the cinnamon stick, cloves, Aleppo spice mix, bay leaves, black pepper, and cardamom pods, stir, and cook until very aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the lamb chunks and onion. Cook, turning the meat over periodically, until browned on all sides and any liquid has evaporated.

Add the 4 cups of hot water, garlic, dried mint, and salt. Cook, covered, for 45 minutes, or until the meat is tender. Stir in the tomato and pomegranate juices, cover, and cook for another 10 minutes, then add the chopped quinces and the lemon juice (or sour salt) and cook (uncovered) for 10 to 15 minutes, until the quince pieces are easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife.

Remove the whole onion, then sprinkle with a little more of the spice mix before serving.