My quinces are sitting in a basket waiting for something to be done with them. They’ve been there for a couple of weeks. Quince paste and jelly are great in small quantities, but I feel the quince is a fruit that is worthy of greater things. Quinces remind me of society ladies – highly perfumed, age well, need a lot of softening up, but add a touch of class to proceedings and are generally worth the effort.
Elizabeth David said “a cook’s greatest ingredient is curiosity” and I’m more than a little curious about what I can do with my quinces this year. I have a great collection of cookbooks so I’ve set about going through them for a little “quincepiration”. I hope you find something in here that you want to try.
First the Sweet Quince Recipes…
If you want a good quince paste and jelly recipe you can’t go past my sisters 2 in 1 recipe from the blog last season. But if you want to venture into different territory here are some stunning sweet quince treats from some of my favourite food writers.
First up is Bevan Smith from Riverstone Kitchen, North Otago. His cookbook of the same name has a couple of my favourite quince ideas. The photo above is his slow poached quince halves in a sugar syrup with cinnamon and star anise. This forms the basis of a couple of memorable dishes in our house.
I make an amazing quince and almond tart from the Riverstone Kitchen book, where you slather a spreadable quince paste onto a blind baked tart case, layer a lot of these poached quinces onto it and fill it with a frangipani filling topped with sliced almonds. As you slice through it you get gorgeous pink chunks of quince and a caramel layer of paste along the base. Divine.
I also freeze little blocks of these poached quinces and use them through winter, folded into homemade yogurt with a handful of blanched almond slivers for a beautifully rich breakfast.
Apple and quince are a common pairing and Jane Grigson devotes a whole chapter to them in her wonderful book “Good Things”. Quince and apple pies and puddings have long been popular, several of her quince recipes have the traditional addition of orange zest and juice which we don’t see so much now. Grating a quince into an apple pie is a popular way to infuse the quince flavour and aroma into it without having to cook the quinces for longer than the apples.
Nigel Slater is another advocate of citrus with quince. Many of his recipes for quince include lemon juice as well as ingredients like cloves, maple syrup, and honey. I like the sound of his maple syrup and star anise poached quince but it is his quince with gorgonzola cream that I’m putting on my make list for this autumn. It looks amazing.
Another sweet treat I’m going to try is quince and honey sorbet from Elizabeth David. Seeing as I have plenty of both and it looks like a simple recipe. As does quince sharbat from Diana Henry, with a little orange flower water. A sharbat is a middle eastern cordial concentrate served with ice and soda or used as a syrup for pouring on ice cream, pancakes or adding to a glass of bubbly.
I’ve also heard that boiled quince quarters with star anise and cinnamon sticks are great for bottling so I might sneak a couple of jars of those in.
Then the Savoury Quince Recipes…
Perhaps less familiar, but more interesting, are the savoury uses for these fragrant ladies. Digby Law gives a recipe for quince vinegar, which I’ve adapted to become one of my store cupboard staples. It captures the colour and unique flavour and fragrance of the quinces. I use it in marinades, dressings and anywhere you need a bit of an exotic sweet/sour splash. It goes really well with poultry and pork dishes.
Quinces feature prominently in many of the works of legendary British food writer Elizabeth David. Her last book, “Is there a Nutmeg in the House?” has a wonderful chapter called “Relishes of the Renaissance” and in it, gives a fascinating recipe for a quince mustard relish from Bartolomeo Scappi’s 1570 cookery book “Opera”. The ingredients include grape juice, quinces, wine, tart apples, a little sugar, mustard, candied peels, nutmeg, salt, cinnamon, and cloves. This is like an intense version of what we know today as Cremona mostarda di frutta, or mustard fruits. It is on my “make one-day” list.
Pickled quinces, from Diana Henry’s book, “Salt, Sugar, Smoke” are on my make list for this autumn. She uses a good cider vinegar, sugar, whole cloves, juniper berries, peppercorns, cinnamon stick and lemon zest. They keep for a year in sealed jars and look like a perfect accompaniment to cold meats and soft cheeses. As an interesting aside, the traditional cheese pairing for quince paste was squares of cream cheese and the quince paste was often cut into cubes and rolled in caster sugar for storage at room temp.
Roast Quince and Lamb
Because they hold their shape and stand up to long slow cooking, peeled and cored quince halves are perfect to pop in around your next roast leg of lamb or stew. Jane Grigson points out that this use of quince and meat with spices in Moroccan tagine cookery is very similar to medieval British fare, where the sweet and savoury were less clearly divided into courses and spices and fruits were routinely cooked with meat. Having an excess of lamb shanks in the freezer at the moment – here is the recipe I’ll be testing from BBC food for sweet spiced lamb shanks and quince.
I haven’t even said how easy quince trees are to grow in all parts of NZ. They’re pretty trees with lovely blossom and don’t need any spraying. Hope you enjoy some of these and I’d love to hear your recipes for quince. Just don’t try and go all healthy like I did over Easter and make a sugar free quince paste. See photo below. Took forever, looks like cat food, tastes like damp leaves. Definitely in the “add to casseroles” category.
And a little PS. I’ve finished dealing to the quince now and I have to tell you that Elizabeth David’s quince & honey sorbet is my new favourite quince recipe. Followed closely by Diana Henry’s pickled quince. The quince & honey sorbet is ridiculously easy and only 3 ingredients.
Bake 6 quinces on 140°C for an hour and a half in a heavy lidded casserole with no water. Peel and core and set the flesh aside. Boil the peel and cores in 2 pints of water for a few minutes, strain and add the cooked flesh and 8 tablespoons of honey to the strained quince water. Let it cool completely and blend it well then add 300mls of cream and churn in an ice-cream churn. She also mentions using yogurt instead of cream and I have to say I preferred this as the sharpness of the yogurt cut the sweetness of the honey really nicely.