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Sukkot makes me dream of a beef tagine with quinces

A fall dish for the holiday come from North Africa and draws out the charms of an often overlooked fruit

By Rob Eshman | October 13, 2022

When I see the pomegranates turn ripe on our tree and the quinces appear at the farmers market, I know it’s time to start planning menus for Sukkot.

Quinces aren’t much to eat raw, but cooked they offer up a flavor between apples and pears, and unlike both, lend more substance to a stew.

There’s a lot of recipes for North African beef or lamb tagines with quinces — many Persian and Syrian ones as well. From Claudia Roden’s books I learned to cook the quinces separately, giving them their own deep honey glaze, then folding them into the almost-finished stew.


  • 3 pounds boneless beef shank or stew meat, in 2-inch cubes
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon ras el-hanout
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon harissa or cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 large quinces
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 small lemon, juiced
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • About 2 cups water


Sear the meat

  1. Season the beef with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add beef cubes and sauté until well-browned on all sides. You may need to do this in batches so you don't crowd the skillet. Remove the beef from skillet and let rest while you make the onions.

Make the onions

  1. Add another 1/4 cup olive oil to the skillet. When hot add onions and garlic. Sauté until clear, add the carrots and celery, then the bay leaf and all the spices. Sauté a few more minutes.

Cook the stew

  1. If you use an Instant Pot, add the beef and onion mixture to the Instant Pot. Pour in about 2 cups of water, so it comes about 3/4 of the way to the top of the meat. Stir well. Cover and cook at (Stew/Meat) setting for an hour. In a regular heavy pot, stir all ingredients together, add water, bring to boil, then lower heat to medium. Cover with a tight lid and simmer stew two hours.

Make the quinces

  1. Wash the quinces but do not peel. Place quinces in a pot of boiling water. Boil the quinces about 15 minutes or until barely cooked. They should still be firm. Cut quinces in quarters lengthwise. Remove core with knife. Cut in eights, then cut crosswise into chunks. In a large skillet heat the vegetable oil. Add quinces and honey. Saute until well-browned, turning frequently. Set aside.

Finish the stew

  1. If you're using the Instant Pot, let cool, then open. Stir in most of the quinces and the lemon juice. Taste for seasoning: You may want more harissa, salt or pepper. In a casserole, remove lid, stir in most of the quinces and the lemon juice. Taste for seasoning: you may want more harissa, salt or pepper. To serve, dish stew into a warm serving bowl with the liquid. Garnish with reserved quince.

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