This was our dinner on Monday night ... good, but in need of further tinkering to make it perfect; the quince lends sweetness to the mince, while the flesh which is left in the shells is surprisingly sharp.
It comes from Claudia Roden's Arabesque, a taste of Turkey, Morocco and Lebanon
Ayva dolmasi for 2
2 medium quinces
one chopped onion
2 tablespoons pine nuts
100g lean mince (I used beef, but I think lamb would be better)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
less than 1/2 tsp ground allspice
salt and pepper
Bake the quinces whole in a moderate oven, 170C, until they are soft. This will take at least an hour.
Soften the onion in oil, the add the pine nuts and keep turning them until they are golden. Put the mince into a bowl with the spices, and work them to a paste with your hands. Add the onions when they are cool enough to handle, and work them in too.
Cut the quinces in half lengthways and remove the core. Spoon out most of the flesh, taking care not to tear the skins. Add this to the mince, and then press the mixture into the quince. Bake for half an hour at 180C.
Serve with pilau rice: I made nohutlu pilav, the chickpea and rice dish which was served by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror (who captured Constantinople in 1453) at the Topkapi Palace. A little gold ball in the shape of a chickpea was hidden in the rice, each guest hoping that they would be the one to find it. This version omits the gold.
Nohutlu pilav for 3-4
250g basmati rice
400ml homemade stock (better to use water than a cube, I think)
one small onion, chopped
half a tin (sorry!) of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Bring the stock (or water) to the boil. Add the rice. Bring back to the boil, clamp on a lid and cook gently, undisturbed, for 15-20 minutes. Towards the end of the cooking time, you may need to check that there is enough liquid. You will know the rice is cooked when all the liquid has been absorbed and there are little holes all over the surface of the rice. Leave it to rest for a few minutes while you prepare the chickpeas. Gently fry the onion until soft and golden. Add the chickpeas and warm through. Stir this through the rice.
I love this taste of the middle east, although I think this particular recipe, again Claudia Roden, would be improved by the addition of saffron. Better than a gold nugget.
This autumnal, seasonal supper would be great for a party: you could prepare the quince ahead, giving it a little longer in the oven. The pilau could also be made beforehand, in which case it should be reheated, tightly covered, in a moderate oven for 15-20 minutes. Easy.
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