03 November 2013

Beef with quince and jujubes: Food item Eighteen: A&S50 Challenge

Zirbaj with quince
Beef with quince and jujubes: Food item Eighteen: A&S50 Challenge
Sayyeda al-Kaslaania
March 2010

Take some cooked meat, and some coarsely crushed chickpeas, and cook [some more]; then add the broth of the meat, vinegar, honey or sugar, some saffron, some quinces [cut] into pieces, and some new apples, also cut into pieces. If you like, [put in] some peeled almonds and some jujubes, or else pistachios and mint. Let thicken over the fire and serve.

Another version: follow the same procedure, with a little starch to thicken [the sauce]; the color remains yellow.

The recipe is translated from a thirteenth century Syrian text called Wusla ila al-habib fi wasf al-tayyibat wa-l-tib, "The Book of Relation with the Beloved in the Description of the Best Dishes and Spices". The original author is unknown to us now. As it appears in Zaouali, Lilia, and M.B. DeBevoise (trans). Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World: A concise history with 174 recipes.  University of California Press:Berkley, 2007.

Beef with quince and jujubes

1.25 lb beef roast
olive oil
8 ounces beef broth
1 can chickpeas, coarsely crushed
1 quince, cored, peeled and cubed
1 apple, cored, peeled and cubed
2 T honey
3 T white vinegar
pinch saffron
6 jujubes, pitted and chopped

Cut the beef into stir-fry sized pieces and brown with olive oil in a large skillet. While it browns, use a potato masher to crush the chickpeas. Add the chickpeas, broth and vinegar to the pot and cook for about 20 minutes before adding remaining ingredients. Peel and core/pit the fruit. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer for 40 minutes.

Serve over pita bread.

    * "Meat" is always red meat, and usually not lamb in historical Middle Eastern cookbooks (lamb and poultry are specified in recipes). Goat, beef and camel are also acceptable “meats”. 

    * New apples would be opposed to apples with russeting (before we started genetically engineering apples, they used to get dull and "russet" colored after week in the pantry-- still being edible).

    * Since both corn and potato starch are new world, I'm curious what sort of starch would have been used to thicken this. Bread crumbs are clearly spelled out in other recipes from this collection, so I doubt that's it.

    * I browned my beef in sesame oil, which worked fine for the temperature but gave the meat an unexpected flavor. I think I would stick with olive oil for red meat in the future.

    * Jujubes, also called Chinese dates, have long been known in the old world. 

    * The jujubes were an unknown quantity for my family, so I kept the volume low. They’re difficult to pit once they’re dried (dried jujubes can be ordered over the Internet from Texas). The flavor is near a date or a plum before cooking, although less flavor overall, and sweet.

    * I would try to get fresh jujubes next time. The skin toughens up on the dried pieces and provides a texture in the dish like dried chili peppers in a stir-fry. 

    * Quince are a fruit related to apples, but they’re inedible in their uncooked state. They can be obtained from Middle Eastern markets most of the year, and many regular groceries will be able to order a box of them for you during apple season.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Urtatim here:
    They used wheat starch. It used to be pretty common. I find very reasonably priced packets in my local halal markets. Don't know why supermarkets don't carry it - they have tapioca, potato, and corn starches...