The Beer Lover's Table: Persian Lamb and Quince Stew with Burning Sky Saison Automne

I know it’s autumn, even without looking out the window or checking the forecast. My body knows, because almost to the day that the calendar ticked over to October 1, it began to crave pumpkins and sage, chestnuts and mushrooms, bitter greens and browned butter. What I want to eat right now is stew.

I’ve had a recipe for this particular stew – called khoresh-e beh – open in one of my zillion tabs for months, just waiting for this time of the year to hit. I like Persian stews like this one because they go beyond mere stodge; they tend to feature bright, acidic, even sour components that offset their richness. This one grabbed me because its star sour ingredient is quince: another perfectly October ingredient that’s often overlooked, mainly eaten as membrillo paste on a cheese board, if at all.

But hard and knobbly and pucker-faced as it is, like an apple that doesn’t want to be eaten, quince gives up the goods once enough heat is applied – when it’s pan-fried and mixed into stew, it turns almost custardy in texture. I love it here alongside the lamb, which gives this dish an animal funk, a gaminess that reminds me of crisp nights even before they arrive. This is the kind of dish you’ll spend a few hours making, but it will reward you for days – it only gets better after a night or two in the fridge.

At this time of year, I can’t help but think of Burning Sky’s Saison Automne. This beer speaks of crunchy leaves and smoky evenings – there’s an wistfulness in that combination of inky elderberries (which lend it a pinky hue and light tartness) and saison yeast; no wonder the brewery compares it to a Burgundy. It brings another dimension to this pairing with its subtle, drying tartness that also picks up the dish’s earthy split-peas and gets along with its vivid bolt of saffron.

This dish might not be the first thing you think of when autumn arrives. But it’s an excellent way to celebrate one of the season’s lesser-known – but no less worthy – ingredients.

Persian Lamb and Quince Stew (Khoresh-e Beh)
Loosely adapted from Persian Food Tours
Serves 4-6

For the stew:
500g boneless lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes (use a cut that’s good
for stewing)
Fine sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided (plus more, if needed)
2 large onions, thinly sliced
3-4 tablespoons ghee
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 tablespoon turmeric
2-3 tablespoons tomato purée
3-4 dried limes (optional)
200g yellow split peas
2 large quinces
Large pinch saffron threads

To serve:
Steamed basmati rice (optionally made with tahdig – I like Feelgoodfoodie’s recipe)
Roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. Season the lamb well with salt and pepper and set aside for 15 minutes.

2. Place a Dutch oven or other large, lidded pan over medium-high heat, and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Once hot, add half the lamb pieces, so as not to crowd the pan. Sear for 2-3 minutes before flipping; continue to sear until evenly golden-brown on all sides. Transfer the lamb pieces to a bowl and repeat with the remaining batch.

3. Once all the lamb has been seared, transfer to a bowl and set aside. Add the ghee to the pot. Once melted, add the onions and season generously with salt. Continue to cook on medium-high heat until the onions have softened and are starting to turn translucent, then turn the heat down to low. Add the cinnamon, cardamom and turmeric, plus another good crack of black pepper, and mix through. Place a lid on the pan and cook for roughly 30-40 minutes, pausing to stir every 10-15 minutes so it doesn't burn, or until the onions are caramelised.

4. Add the tomato purée to the onions and mix through. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, or until it turns a deep brick red. Then, return the seared lamb pieces and any accumulated juices to the pan. Cover with 750ml of water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn down to a simmer. If using dried limes, carefully stab each 2-3 times with a sharp knife and add to the pot. Cover and cook for 1 hour, pausing to stir occasionally.

5. After the lamb has been stewing for an hour, rinse the split yellow peas well and add to the pot. Cook for roughly 1–1 ½ hours further, or until the split peas are tender and the lamb is starting to fall apart. Remove and discard the dried limes, if using.

6. Meanwhile, while the stew is cooking, prepare the quince. Without peeling, cut each quince in half and in half again, and slice away the stem and hard core from each piece, then cut into thin wedges. In a frying pan, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and place over medium heat; once hot, add the quince in a single layer (you may need to cook in several batches so as not to crowd the pan, and add additional oil if the pan looks dry). Cook for roughly 2 minutes per side, or until evenly golden brown. Once browned, add to the stew. Repeat with any remaining batches.

7. Shortly before the stew is ready to serve, bloom your saffron: Add a large pinch to a mortar and pestle, and crush before topping with 2-3 tablespoons boiling water. Leave to infuse for 5 minutes before adding to the stew and mixing through. Taste and adjust the seasoning of the stew if needed.

8. Serve the stew alongside steamed basmati rice (optionally prepared in the Persian method, with tahdig). Garnish with parsley and serve.

Claire M Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer hound and all-around lover of tasty things. You can follow her at @clairembullen. For more recipes like this, sign up to our HB&B All Killer No Filler beer subscription - you'll receive Claire's recipe and food pairings, plus expert tasting notes, with 10 world-class beers like this one every month.