Quince Stuffed with Wheat Berries, Nuts, and Raisins

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All through the winter, I keep a basket of fragrant quinces on the table. As they ripen, it is like watching the winter change slowly on my kitchen table. Quince is so versatile and adds flavor and texture to both savory and sweet dishes. I cut quinces to roast with root vegetables, braise them with greens or grains, or prepare this dish, stuffing them with a sweet and spicy filling of walnuts, grains, and raisins. The filling for this recipe is inspired by the classic, sumptuous Turkish meat-stuffed quince. With nuts, chewy wheat berries, raisins, and a very aromatic Lebanese spice blend, I think I have created an equally enticing meatless dish.

Ingredients

  • 4 quinces (about 3 pounds/1.5 kg total)

For the Stuffing

  • cup (80 ml) olive oil
  • 2 cups (240 g) coarsely chopped onions
  • Salt
  • 2 cups (about 200 g) almonds (with skins) or walnuts, coarsely ground, plus a few whole nuts, for garnish
  • ½ cup (120 ml) fresh orange juice
  • cups (240 g) precooked wheat berries or farro
  • teaspoons Lebanese Seven-Spice Mixture (baharat), or more to taste
  • 1 cup (140 g) raisins
  • 1 cup (60 g) finely chopped dill (1 tablespoon reserved for garnish)

For the Sauce

  • ¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons Maraş pepper, or a good pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, to taste, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 cup (240 ml) sweet dessert wine, such as Marsala or Mavrodaphne

Method

Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Rub the fuzz off each quince, wash, and dry. Halve each fruit through the equator, using a good chef’s knife. Don’t peel. Arrange them on the baking sheet, cut side down, and bake for 30 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork. Let cool; leave the oven on.

(You can bake the quince up to 4 days in advance and keep, covered, in the refrigerator until needed. Bake more and freeze them to use later in savory or sweet dishes.)

Using a grapefruit knife or spoon, very carefully remove as much flesh as possible from each quince half without piercing the skin. If, while removing the core and pips, you prick the bottom, don’t worry; simply patch it with a piece of the removed flesh. Discard the pips and core (see Note), place the quince flesh in a blender, and pulse to chop—you will have about 2 cups (240 g).

Make the stuffing: In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, add the onions, and sprinkle with salt. Sauté until soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the almonds, orange juice, wheat berries, and 1½ cups (180 g) of the quince pulp—reserve about ½ cup (60 g) pulp for the sauce—and toss. Remove from the heat and add the spices, raisins, and dill; stir well to mix. Taste and correct the seasoning.

Arrange the quince, hollow side up, in an ovenproof clay or glass pan that holds them snugly. Fill each fruit with the stuffing, using all of it.

Make the sauce: In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, add the tomato paste, and stir for a few seconds. Add the reserved quince pulp, the cinnamon, bay leaves, and Maraş pepper to taste. Pour in the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Spoon the sauce over each stuffed quince, tucking the cinnamon sticks and bay leaves between the quinces (see photo). Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil, stick an almond half on top of each quince, and bake for 5 to 10 minutes more, to brown the tops. Sprinkle with the reserved dill and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.