Chicken, quince and pomegranate tagine with couscous

Fragrant pomegranate and quince add a taste of the Middle East to this delicious chicken dish.

Quince, the knobbly and rather ugly cousin of the pear, isn’t readily available in every supermarket, but it can be found in farmer’s markets and Middle Eastern supermarkets or, if you’re lucky enough, on a tree in your garden. Once cooked, the fruits take on a fragrant sweetness that’s definitely worth exploring.

Chicken, quince and pomegranate tagine with couscous (serves 4)

2 quinces
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1tbspn Harissa paste (available in supermarkets)
4tspn turmeric
2tspn cinnamon
2tspn crushed cumin seeds
500g chicken fillets
40g tomato paste
500ml chicken stock
500g couscous
500ml chicken stock
1 pomegranate

Core your quinces, then cut them into 1in cubes, but work quickly as they turn brown in no time and will stain your chopping board. Simmer the cubed quince, with enough water to cover the fruit, in a pan for about 20 minutes.

Slice the chicken breasts into even-sized pieces and brown them gently, with a splash of olive oil, in a large, heavy-bottomed pan. Remove the chicken to a plate, add the chopped onion to the same pan and cook until it’s transparent and soft. Add the crushed garlic, Harissa, tomato paste, turmeric, cinnamon and crushed cumin seeds and cook for a minute or so, before returning the chicken to the pan and pouring in enough stock to cover it. Add the quince to the pot and simmer gently to ensure the chicken is cooked and the flavours are well blended.

Prepare the couscous by adding an equal volume of boiling chicken stock to the grains in a large bowl, cover and leave for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

Finally, scatter the pomegranate seeds over the top of the chicken tagine and serve immediately with the couscous on the side.

More ways with quince

Chicken, quince and pomegranate tagineHoneyed quince-and-walnut cake (left)
Grease and line an 8in-diameter cake tin and preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4, cut a large quince into quarters, then simmer them in a saucepan with water and a generous drizzle of honey for about 20 minutes. Cool, remove the cores, then arrange the quince pieces in the bottom of the tin.

In a stand mixer, combine 175g butter and 175g muscovado sugar. Add 3 eggs, 1tspn cinnamon, 1tspn vanilla-bean paste and 2tbspn honey and mix again. Add a third of 160g self-raising flour, followed by half of the 100ml cooled quince syrup, then the second third of the flour, the remaining quince syrup and the final third of flour. Mix well, pour the mix over the quince and bake for about 45 minutes or longer, testing with a skewer.

Once baked, turn the cake out and pour a few tablespoons of warmed honey over the top. Serve warm with clotted cream—heaven!

Stuffed and baked quince
Mix 8tbspn oats, 50g chopped almonds, 75g chopped dried apricots, 50g desiccated coconut, 3tbspn coconut oil and a drizzle of maple syrup. Core 4 quinces, fill with the mixture and bake for 40 minutes. Serve with ice cream.

‘Partridge in a quince tree’
Quarter and core 3 quinces, rub with lemon, drizzle with olive oil and season. Bake in a hot oven, then set aside. Butter 4 partridges, scatter them with chopped rosemary and thyme, lay unsmoked bacon rashers over the breast and add the partridges to the tray you used to cook the quinces. Roast for 20–25 minutes, allow to rest, then serve the partridge (one per person) with the quinces and pan juices.