A seasonal stew made with slow cooked chicken, quince, sour plums and apricots. Deliciously sweet and sour and warming from the saffron and cinnamon aromatics.
What is Khoresh Beh ba Aloo?
Chicken is slow-cooked in a saffron and turmeric-infused sauce with apricots, sour plums and quince to give an amazing sweet and sour flavour.
This khoresh (stew) is not as well-known as other stews from Iran such as Ghormeh Sabzi (lamb stew with herbs and dried limes) or Fesenjoon (chicken stew with pomegranate molasses and walnuts). This is probably due to the hero ingredient of the stew – quince. Quince is in season between October and January in the UK and during these months I suspect most Iranian households (like my family) will try to cook this dish a few times before the season ends.
What is Quince?
Quince is the fruit from a deciduous tree. It has a similar appearance to a pear but the fruit is generally not eaten raw but processed. Many of you may be familiar with quince being used to flavour gin, eaten as a paste with cheese or made into jam.
For those of you new to quince, let me tell you about this lovely fruit. It is a member of the apple and pear family. It has a yellow, lumpy hard flesh with a bitter flavour when raw. Due to the unpalatable flavour when raw, quince is generally consumed after cooking. When cooked, quince becomes soft and dense and develops a sweet, slightly tart flavour with hints of apple, pear, and citrus. Quince can last up to several weeks if stored in a fridge.
Origins of this Dish
The best quince is grown in Esfahan in Iran and unsurprisingly the dish originates from this beautiful city. There are a few variations of this khoresh with some cooking it with lamb; using tomato purée; adding lentils. The recipe I have shared below results in a sweet and sour stunning golden stew, an unusual colour by comparison to the other stews we Iranians cook.
Ingredients in Khoresh Beh ba Aloo
This dish is delightfully easy to cook with minimal preparation. The final dish is comforting and loved by adults and children alike, so it is a great family recipe.
- Butter / Ghee and Vegetable Oil: to cook various elements of the stew such as the quince and onions.
- Quince: available at most South Asian or Middle Eastern supermarkets when in season.
- Chicken Thighs: skinless chicken thighs on the bone are the best cut for stews.
- Onion: used as the basis of most stews including meat.
- Turmeric, Saffron and Cinnamon: provides a warming and earthy flavour profile to the stew. The turmeric and saffron also provide the golden hue to the dish.
- Water: the cooking liquid. Vegetable or chicken stock can also be used.
- Corn flour: to thicken the stew.
- Honey: to sweeten and balance the tartness of the quince and sour plums.
- Dried Apricots: available in local supermarkets. Soak them before adding them to the stew.
- Dried Bukhara Sour Plums: deliciously tart and will need to be soaked overnight before adding to the stew. You can buy them online or from most South Asian or Middle Eastern supermarkets.
- Salt and Pepper: to season the dish.
How to Serve Khoresh Beh ba Aloo
Serve this khoresh with Chelow (Persian steamed rice) and Salad Shirazi. Alternatively, serve it with a parsley mash and steamed green vegetables or just eat it with crusty bread.
Khoresh Beh ba Aloo
- 1 tbsp butter or ghee
- 2 medium quince (halved, sliced 1.5 inch thick and with core taken out)
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 8 chicken thighs or a whole large chicken (approx. 2 kg - quartered) (on the bone, skin removed)
- 1 onion (finely diced)
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp ground saffron (bloomed in 2 tbsp of water)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 500 ml water
- 1 heaped tsp corn flour (dissolved in 1 tsp of cold water)
- 3 tbsp honey
- 15 small dried apricots (soaked in hot water overnight)
- 20 dried bukhara sour plums (soaked in hot water overnight)
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- Take a frying pan, add butter and place on medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted, fry quince until caramelised on each side. Place them on a plate and put to one side.
- Season chicken. Add 1 tbsp oil to the same frying pan and seal the chicken. Then place on a plate and put to one side.
- Take a large casserole dish with a lid (minimum 3.5 litre capacity). Add 2 tbsp of oil and place on a medium / high heat. Then add diced onions and fry until translucent.
- Add turmeric and stir until evenly distributed. Add chicken thighs, then add water and bloomed saffron. Add the corn flour paste. Season sauce to taste. Add cinnamon stick.
- Drain apricots and sour plums from the water they have soaked in and add to pan with honey. Stir gently and distribute the fruit evenly across pan.
- Arrange quince in the saucepan. Quince cooks very quickly and can be quite mushy so arrange the quince so it partially rests on the thighs. Once the liquid starts to bubble, turn the heat down to low and place the lid on the pan. Let the stew simmer for 40 mins to 1 hr or until chicken is tender and falling off the bone. Prior to serving, taste the stew and season further if required.
- Serve with chelow and Salad Shirazi; or mashed potatoes and some steamed green vegetables; or crusty bread.