Monday, November 22, 2010

Persian beef stew with quince (khoreshe behh)

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Persian beef stew with quince and prunes
My love affair with quince continues. Sometimes, as a native New Yorker living in southern California, I feel like I've landed in a sort of agricultural Wonka factory, where every time I turn around I'm discovering a new fruit or vegetable that makes me as giddy as a Fizzy Lifting Drink. My first taste of poached quince was a Fizzy Lifting Drink moment. I expected the taste and texture of canned pears, somehow; instead I got pure thick velvet, scented with rose and apricot. It swept me off my feet.

I polled the crowd on the In Erika's Kitchen Facebook page about quince. Shirin, another home cook in Los Angeles, waxed wistful about her mother's Persian beef stew with quince. I had to have the recipe. Shirin got it from her mom, Haydeh, and with their permission I share it with you.

I can't find the words to describe just how delicious and unusual this beef stew is. Beef, quince, prunes and turmeric combine to make a rich, aromatic broth. It smells and tastes like a fireplace in winter: warm, thick, a little smoky.

I made this beef stew in the slow cooker, although it could easily cook on the stove. If you have trouble finding quince, ask the produce manager at a local gourmet grocery - he or she should be able to find you some until the end of the year.

See the green spot on the spoon? That's me, taking the photo

Persian beef stew with quince (Khoreshe behh)
adapted from a recipe by Haydeh Bina Motavasel

  • 4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 pounds stew beef cut into smallish cubes (lamb or veal work also)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2-3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 quinces, cored and cubed, not peeled
  • handful of prunes
  • 3 Tbsp honey
Heat 3 Tbsp olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Brown the meat in batches until it is seared well on all sides, then remove the meat to a plate. Add the onions and cook 6-8 minutes, until the onions are starting to brown nicely. Add the meat and any juices that have accumulated on the plate back to the pot. Add the turmeric, cinnamon, tomato paste, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and enough water to come halfway up the meat mixture. Stir to combine and bring the pot to a simmer.

While the meat is coming to a simmer, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet and saute the quince for a few minutes. You don't want to cook it thoroughly, just to start caramelizing the edges. Add the quince to the stew pot along with the prunes and honey. By this time the stew should be simmering; stir everything to combine, cover the pot, and let it cook a good three hours over very low heat. Check it occasionally to make sure there is enough liquid in the pot, and if it looks dry, add some water. Shirin notes that the longer it cooks, the better it will be.

Serve with white Basmati rice.

Slow cooker method: After you brown the meat and onions, add them to the slow cooker along with the turmeric, cinnamon, tomato paste, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and a cup or two of water. Saute the quince and add those to the slow cooker along with the prunes. Drizzle the honey over all. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.

I find quince extraordinarily beautiful


Damaris @Kitchen Corners said...

you keep posting about quince. I really need to find it and try it out.

Erika Kerekes said...

@Da - you should be able to find it - try Whole Foods or another gourmet-ish grocery store. Or wait, where are you located? If you're in northern California you can probably find a neighbor with a tree.

Susan said...

i love it that i can do this with the slow cooker. Sometimes I find it difficult to convert ethnic recipes into more user-friendly (aka lazy) method. I'm a beginner cook and am not comfortable enough to just 'wing' it just yet. thanks so much Erika!

Nancy said...

Beautiful photos Erika! This stew sounds divine and perfect for these cool days we are having (ok, cool by Calif. standards!!)
I definitely want to try this one and will do it in the slow cooker - basketball season is here!!!

MyLife MyTrip said...

Oh.. this is my most favorite one. I like beef and your photo makes me hungry now.

And yes, i see the green spot on the spoon who is taking the photo :-)

Linda said...

Hi Erika, this looks so good I will make it next week after Thanksgiving. I love quince too. My Nona (grandmother)from Turkey made something called Halva de Membrillo. It is a quince paste, quince cooked down with sugar, spread in a baking dish and then later sliced in squares. Quince are usually available at all the kosher Persian markets in the Pico-Robertson area. Bristol Farms also carries it frequently.

Monet said...

Do you know that I've never sampled a quince before? What a shame! I need to change that...and then I need to make this stew. I always enjoy finding recipes that can be cooked in a slow cooker too. Thank you for sharing with me...I hope you have a wonderful week of feasting, friends and family!

Cookin' Canuck said...

Okay, I'm sold! This unusual stew looks and sounds beyond fantastic. What a unique and enticing combination of flavors.

Anonymous said...

my mother makes this all the is out of this world! thank you!

Jacki said...

Incredible flavor - I substituted firm Asian pears for the quince and it was wonderful - worked very well in the slow cooker.

Anonymous said...

Are you persian erika? Khorshte beh is a persian food :)

Anonymous said...

I made this stew last night.... persian people are telling me I am a persian professional cook ;) and I have to congratulate you for the awesome recipe! It came out really nice and yummy... the only question is how your quince turn to be such a nice dark red color? mine stayed yellow- orange color! I cooked the stew for five hours hoping the color will come out later but it didn't. Is there any trick?

Erika Kerekes said...

I am not Persian but I live in Los Angeles, the American capital of Persian food, and I have learned to love it! As for the quince, I think the color depends a lot on the variety. There are many varieties of quince - some take on more color than others. It was still delicious, right?

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