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Tadjine S'fardjel | Algerian Lamb & Quince Stew #SunnahKitchen

A beautiful example of  Andalusian heritage, meat braised with fruits in savory sweet sauce.

بِسْــــــــــــــــــــــمِ اﷲِارَّحْمَنِ ارَّحِيم
السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته

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“Take a plump, skinned ram, and take as many chickens, pigeons, doves and small birds as you can. Stuff these birds with breadcrumbs, eggs and pounded almonds. Fill the belly of the ram with these birds, add cooked meatballs and fried sausages. Sprinkle the ram with oil and thyme and put it in the oven till it is completely brown and cooked.”

I recently found a copy of the "El Kitāb al tabīkh", a late eleventh-century cookery work by Ibn Razin al-Tujibi for the Cuisine of Al Andalus Muslim Spain. The book was such a blessed find for a person like me, who's a history and culinary fanatic. 

Al-Andalus, which means, "to become green at the end of the summer" is referred to the territory occupied by the Muslim empire in Southern Spain, which refer to the cities of Almeria, Malaga, Cadiz, Huelva, Seville, Cordoba, Jaen and Granada. This civilization spanned the eighth to the fifteenth century.

Al Andalus transcends space and time.

Muslims entered Spain not as aggressors or oppressors, but as liberators. Their presence illuminated the Iberian Peninsula while the rest of Europe at the time was still engulfed in darkness.  Andalusia produced a great civilization far ahead and advanced than the rest of Europe. Under their rule, Muslims made Spain a center for learning and knowledge. The Muslims were taught reading, writing, math, Arabic, Qur'an, and Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him), and then they themselvesbecame leaders in math, science, medicine, astronomy, navigation, etc. 

The civilization of  Al Andalus was the embodiment of the Islamic compulsion to seek ilm, or knowledge. It became renowned for its prosperity as people who quested for knowledge journeyed from afar to learn in its universities under the feet of the Muslims. As a result, Andalus gave rise to a great many intellectual giants. Muslim Spain produced great philosophers, physicians, scientists, judges, artists, and the like. Ibn Rushd, (Averroes) Ibn Sina, (Avicenna) Ibn Zuhr, (Avenzoar), Al-Kwarizmi, (Algorizm) and Al-Razi, (Razes) just to name a few. Other great historical figures like Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, was also educated in Andalusia. It is from the Andalusian philosophers, Ibn Rushd, and Ibn Sina that great renowned Christian men like St. Thomas Aquinas borrowed their philosophies. Both St. Thomas Aquinas and Dante called Ibn Rushd or "Averroes" the "The Commentator" and incorporated the views of Muslimsinto their ideology.

Islamic Spain was an immensely fertile ground for not only learning, but also the openness was also present within the different religions to coexist. The Spanish had a phrase for that period of history — La Convivencia, or coexistence (in the most literal meaning of the word). It was the era in which a Muslim ruler had a Jewish functionary and an archbishop as Secretary of State. Everyone accepted one another, allowing a relatively peaceful coexistence. A tolerance extended not only just to other religious groups but operative within Muslim society as well.

Spain has much to teach people about how those of different religions and cultures can live together in harmony and thrive. It can remind us of the Spanish concept of La Convivencia. Both Muslims and non-Muslims will benefit from being reminded of Andalusia. Something I think people in modern time need to remember.

And out this era of knowledge, came beautifully elobrate cuisine. Cooking in Al-Andalus was an international affair, flavored by the tastes of India, the Spice Islands, Persia, North Africa, Syria and all the places in between from which cultural elements were gathered and brought to the Iberian Peninsula with the Muslims. Herbs and spices like basil, saffron, coriander, jasmine, and mint and spices such as ginger, aniseed, tamarind, cloves, and cinnamon combined exotic imported plants with those that were native to the Mediterranean climate of Spain.

Among the ways of cooking and eating habits that can still be recognized in Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Algeria today. For example, vast dishes of communal dishes like paella, flatbreads, thin pasta, grilled meats, shish kebabs, honeyed almond desserts, honeyed fritters, dishes using chickpeas and exotic vegetables that arrived from Asia and the Americas.

The cuisine of al-Andalus - Muslim Spain is a rich yet almost lost art.

The brillance of this book is that's an appropriate setting, and indeed, from today's perspective, for fun in the kitchen experimenting with flavors in the kitchen. Today's recipe is a beautiful of  Andalusian heritage.  Sweet tadjines much like harira and honeyed almond desserts came from Al Andalus. 

Tadjine S'farjel طاجين السفرجل is a variant on the sweet tadjine "Tadjine h'lam helou" that everyone knows. I personally appreciate quince which tastes like a cross between an apple and pear. I got this recipe from my new neighbor Nassima (BarakAllahu fiki Nassima) with the only difference I added vanilla. It seemed to go well in this dish. 

This dish is simply irresistible. Go make this dish!

There are two ways of cooking quinces:
-  cooked in the sauce after the meat is done,
- or  steamed with honey or sugar, then added to the sauce.

Nassima let me know steaming gives a better taste. And in addition, honey is not only natural but has a greater sweetening power than sugar. So of course, I prefer it to the latter.

And before I forget quinces are SUNNAH FOOD machallah! It is said that to eat "Quince on an empty stomach is good for the soul". Cold and dry, Quince is astringent to the stomach, and it checks excessive menstrual flow. A few quince seeds placed in water will, after a few minutes, form amucilage which is an excellent remedy for cough and sore throat, especially in the young. Quince is also excellent for pregnant woman, gladdening their heart. Our Prophet (peace be upon him) said said, "Eat Quince, for it sweetens the heart.".

So let's get started with the recipe.

Tadjine S'fardjel 

 Algerian Lamb and Quince Stew  

cookies| yields about 4-6 servings
COOK TIME: 1,5 hr mins


 1kg - 2lbs lamb shoulder
‣ 1 kg - 2lbs quinces, peeled 
‣ 2 large onions, sliced thinly
‣ 1 cinnamon stick
‣ 1 TBS turmeric
‣ vanilla essence
‣ 1-3 TBS honey
‣ generous handful of raisins or sultanas
‣ 2 knobs of smen/ghee or butter
‣ oil

  1. In a pot or casserole, heat the oil. Add the chopped onion and the pieces of lamb to brown.
  2. Once the meat is browned add the ginger, turmeric, cinnamon stick, pepper and a little smen or butter. Let simmer a few minutes while stirring constantly. 
  3. Add water to cover the meat, but do not put too much. Season with salt and cover. Let cook for 1 hour or until the pieces of meat are cooked. Add water occasionally if you find that the sauce is going to burn.
  4. Meanwhile, peel the quince and remove the seeds. Cut the quinces into quarters and steam them in the couscousier or a small pot with a steamer insert. Put a little oil and butter on top of them. 
  5. When the meat is cooked and the sauce reduced, add 1 to 3 tablespoons of honey (your preference). When the quinces are cooked, put them in a pot with the sauce, Add the raisins and vanilla as well. Taste for seasoning. Your sauce should have a pleasant sweet savory taste. Let the sauce keeping simmering, to reduce the sauce, flipping the pieces of quince occasionally to coat with in the sauce.
Serve with bread.

    ⇝ This pdish can be stored in the fridge for up to 3days. I wouldn't freeze this dish with the quince in it, as they will get mushy when frozen

    ⇝ You can add dried apricots also in this dish.

    ⇝ You can make this dish with apples instead of the quinces.
    You can prepare this dish without the meat, just cook the quinces in the sauce, don't steam it seperately.
    You can sub sugar for the honey, but in my opinion honey is much better taste and healthwise

     CATEGORIES:  algerian, main dishes, VeGetarian adaptable

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