Monday, May 10, 2010

Beef and Quince Tagine

Everyday should be a celebration of those we love - our mothers, fathers, significant others, children and friends. I'm not suggesting you lavish on the gifts but rather treat those special to you with respect and kindness by showing them daily how much you love and appreciate them. This can be done in so many words or simply by living this practice. I suppose one way I do this is by putting real care into what I feed my family.

I think they took a cue from me this past Mother's Day because the kids let me sleep late and surprised me with breakfast in bed. Not only was breakfast seeped in their love for me but additionally my daughter gave me a special book she made at school with pages that each contained a sentence started by the teacher in which she completed with her own thoughts and drawings. I wish I could share the drawings with you, they are priceless. In one picture she drew me in front of what she featured as my very happy, very alive double oven complete with big eyes and a big smile - I think that means she likes the food that I pop out of there. Here are some highlights of the book:

My mother looks prettiest when…..
When she went to a wedding. But mostly every day.
Everybody looks pretty but not as pretty as my mom.

My mother loves me when…….
She is a good mother and she loves me all the time.

I want to say thank you to my mother for….
Doing everything for me.

Beef and Quince Tagine

Traditionally tagines are stews cooked slowly in a tagine pot. At home, only my husband uses the tagine when making meatballs tagine. I usually cook beef and lamb in the pressure cooker and chicken and ground beef in a saucepan or Dutch oven. For more on why it is ok to use a Dutch oven in place of a tagine, I recommend this article.

As I mentioned before I really like the pressure cooker because it significantly reduces the amount of time to get dinner ready, but you can just as well use a Dutch oven although you will need more time to get the meat ready and soft. You will notice that in general when cooking tagine, I don't use a lot of meat and usually use a lot more of the other ingredients simply because I'm not too crazy about lots of meat. But, you can adjust that to your preferences. I also tend to use salt sparingly since my chicken broth already has salt. I hardly add much if any to my final dishes.

About 1 lb (or 1 ½) of stew beef cut in cubes
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or other of you preference)
1 very large onion diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
A small handful of cilantro and 1 cinnamon stick, tied into a bouquet
1 heaping tsp ginger powder (I love ginger so I always put a bit more)
A few treads of saffron crushed (about 8 or 10)
¼ tsp ground black pepper
¼ tsp turmeric
Dash (about 1/8 tsp) cinnamon
Dash cayenne or more to taste
4 cups chicken broth (you might need more)
Salt to taste
3 to 4 quinces, cored and halved (with skin)
¼ large onion sliced vertically in thin cuts (optional)
About 4 Tbsp of butter
3 Tbsp of sugar (or less to your taste) to caramelize

Put about ¼ cup of olive oil in a pressure cooker and heat over medium high heat. Put the meat then add the ginger, black pepper, turmeric, cayenne and cinnamon. Let it brown on all sides. Add the saffron, and then the diced onions and cook for about 3 minutes stirring frequently, then put the garlic and leave for about 1 or 2 more minutes more always stirring. Add salt to taste.

Add the cilantro and cinnamon bouquet and the chicken stock. Lock lid in place and bring to high pressure over medium high heat. Reduce the heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for about 20 to 25 minutes or until meat is fork tender. (if using a Dutch oven you might want to put less liquid and add more as needed - it will probably need about 1 ½ hours until the meat is ready). When meat is ready and pressure has been released open according to manufacturer's directions. Taste the sauce and adjust for seasoning and salt if necessary.

While the beef is cooking, melt the butter in a large and heavy frying pan and cook the quinces and the onion, stirring frequently so that the onions don’t get burned. Cook the quince about 3 minutes on each side, then add half the sugar to each side and let cook for another 2 minutes or so per side.

If your frying pan is big enough and has a lid, add the beef and sauce to it. Otherwise, add the quince mix and beef stew to a heavy pot with a lid. You won’t need to pressure cook again. Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes with lid on so as not to dry up the sauce - cook until you can easily stick a fork through the quince being careful not to overcook or it will fall apart (around 15 minutes). In the last few minutes of cooking you can open the lid to help thicken the sauce a bit more.

Transfer to a serving dish and serve with bread.

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