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This is a very exotic dish, which always reminds me of mellow autumn days when the dazzling fruit hung from almost bare branches. In late October and early November the orchard looked as if it was filled with surreal Christmas trees. I love quinces for their aroma and complex flavours and i can eat them in all sorts of ways, but i also know that they are an acquired taste. However, in this combination of sweet and savoury flavours they win everyone over, including the uninitiated. You do not need to serve anything else with this dish.
1. Have ready a bowl of water acidulated with the lemon juice. Using a sharp cook's knife, quarter each quince vertically. Core and peel the pieces and drop them into the acidulated water to prevent them from discoloring.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy pan. When it is almost smoking, brown the meat on both sides, turning the pieces over once. As soon as all the meat has browned, lower the heat, pour the wine over and let it bubble and reduce slightly.
3. Pour the hot water into the pan and add the cinnamon stick. Cover the pan and cook over a gentle heat for about 1 hour or until the meat is tender. Add salt to taste.
4. Lift the quinces out of the acidulated water, and slice each piece vertically into 2-3 elongated pieces. Spread half the quince slices in a single layer in a large frying pan, pour half the sugared water over and cook them gently for 10 minutes, turning them over occasionally until all the liquid has been absorbed and they start to brown and caramelize.
5. Spread the caramelized quince slices over the meat in the pan and repeat the caramelizing process with the remaining quince slices. Having added them to the meat, finely grate about one-quarter of a whole nutmeg over the top. If necessary, add more hot water to cover the quince slices.
6. Cover the pan and cook for 30 minutes more until both the meat and the quince slices are meltingly soft and sweet. Do not stir the mixture after the quince has been added; instead, shake the pan from side to side occasionally so that the meat is prevented from sticking to the base. Serve hot.
Feather steak is a tender cut of beef, from between the neck and rib, near the chuck. It is particularly good for braising. If you can't find it, use stewing or braising steak instead.
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