So last week I found quince at my local green grocer’s. If you’re Kashmiri then you have a pretty good idea how that must’ve made me feel. If you aren’t, let me tell you. Quince is one of those things that are inextricably linked to my childhood. My mum always loved quince. So it was always a happy day when she made the first quince curry of the season. Fresh Quince curried with lamb, with lots of fluffy white rice. In my head that’s the taste of Autumn. And then as the winter set in, dried quince with lamb, or on its own. Beauty itself. So obviously I bought more than I should have. Both quince, and lamb. Got home, terribly excited. And then realised that much as I’ve loved bamtchoonth all my life, I’d never cooked it. Sure I kind of knew what I should do. Getting the lamb sorted is always easy. And how hard could the quince part of the dish be. Right? But then again I knew how epic my disappointment would be if it didn’t taste like it does in my head. So I did the only thing I could. Yep. I called my mum. Which means you guys can *rest assured* that this recipe is AWESOME. Just like my mum. ❤
1 kg of lamb. Any cut will do, but a bit of fat on the meat does take this up a notch.
500-700 gms of quince. (About 6-7 apples. Are they called apples? Kashmiris call them apples, so I’m going to call them apples. Yep.) These you’ll need to wash, peel, core and chop. But more on that later.
3-4 medium sized shallots, sliced.
3-4 fat cloves of garlic.
7 black cardamom pods.
11 green cardamom pods.
1-2 sticks of cinnamon.
2 teaspoons of cumin seeds.
1-2 teaspoons of turmeric.
2-3 teaspoons of fennel powder.
1 teaspoon of Kashmiri red chili powder.
First things first, let’s get the lamb started. So you basically wash the meat and put it in a big enough pan. Add all the whole spices, garlic, fennel powder and salt. Pour in enough water to cover the meat. Bring to boil. Cover. Simmer. And forget about it for about 1-2 hours till the meat is incredibly soft and tender. Ah, yes, Kashmiris are the undisputed KingsAndQueens of over-cooking. *Deep bow*.
So while the lamb is doing its thing, let’s prepare the quince. Now this, as far as I’m concerned is the hardest part of this recipe. And having a good, sharp knife will make it a *lot* easier. So, wash and peel the quince. Easy enough. Then you want to core each fruit and chop it into 8-10 chunks. Which sounds fairly straightforward till you realise how unbelievably hard the core of these fruits is. *Good lord in heavens above!* So remember a good, sharp knife is critical to this step. There. That’s the most labour intensive bit done. Promise.
Now, take another pan, wide-bottomed and shallow. Pour in a generous amount of oil. Once the oil is hot carefully place your quince chunks in a single layer, in the pan. What you want to do is fry them, like you would say, pieces of chicken — in batches. Don’t put them all in and go stir-crazy. Just don’t.
What you’re looking for is a nice golden reddish brown hue. (What? There is such a hue. It exists. Fry. You’ll see.) Use a slotted spoon to take take the quince out.
Once you’re done frying, put your shallots into the same pan and fry till soft and translucent. Add the turmeric and chili powder, and fry till fragrant – 30secs to a minute. And then add the fried quince. Give it all a good stir to make sure the spices coat the quince. Fry for a minute or two, and then add the meat, which by now is hopefully all done. Add the pieces of meat first, and stir everything carefully. Once all the meat and quince and spices are well mixed, add the stock that you cooked the lamb in – not too much though, just enough to nearly cover everything. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for another 10-15 minutes, or till the quince is soft.
There. You’re done. Autumn and love, all in one dish.