May 30, 2011
Quinces And A Celebration
When I was a little girl, we had a tree in the garden that produced the most beautiful blossoms I'd ever seen or smelt.
It wasn't the apple tree that grew hard, green specimens that were too tart to eat raw, or the plum tree that had the most amazing deep purple fruit that I've never come across since; but a pretty, low growing tree that in Autumn had great big, stunning, fragrant, furry, golden, knobby fruits hanging off it.
This was the quince tree.
A beautiful old-fashioned fruit that is truly seasonal and not often seen on menus nowadays. Maggie Beer loves it and makes a lovely paste to go with cheese, it's the source of the original marmalade- not oranges, and simply cannot be eaten raw as it is too astringent and not nice at all.
You can also mix quinces nicely in a savoury dish like a tagine- it goes beautifully with lamb and goat, and I believe I mentioned earlier how nicely it matches with cheese.
When quince is cooked, it undergoes a miraculous transformation. The fragrance and flavour reminds me ever so faintly of roses, and when cooked low and slow the colour deepens from creamy to a beautiful, burnished, deep pink.
Mum would usually cut around the horrible gritty parts at the core of the fruit, and stew the quince up on it's own or with apple to make a simple sweet to have with custard. If you cook it quickly, it still tastes nice, but doesn't have a chance to live up to it's true potential.
This is my favourite way to eat quince. Baked in the oven, slowly simmering in sweet sugar syrup. A more grown up and sophisticated version of the stewed fruit from my childhood.
Grab some nice ripe quinces. Most of their furry fuzz should have rubbed off and the fragrance should be discernible if they are nice and mature.
Peel them and drop them quickly into acidulated water to stop them oxidising and turning brown.
Now- this is very important- make sure you core them really well. You know how pears can be a bit gritty? Well quinces are the queen of grittiness! The flesh is lovely and smooth, but around the core there are nasty crunchy gritty bits that can spoil the sublime experience if you miss even the tiniest amount.
Slice them up, or leave them in halves for a more dramatic presentation.
Make a simple sugar syrup with 1 part sugar, 2 parts water, or to taste. Quince have a natural tartness that I find very appealing, and you don't want to overpower them and make them sickly. Sometimes with sweetness less is more. You can however, flavour the syrup with some spices or citrus peel to add a bit more mystique and intrigue.
Pour enough syrup to mostly cover the quinces and then either make a paper cartouche (see previous post) or wrap the pan in alfoil to stop it all evaporating away. If you chose to keep the pieces large like my halves, always place them presentation side down first, and then turn them over after about an hour and a half or so.
Bake the quinces at about 160* for a few hours and until you can slip a knife gently through the flesh with very little resistance.
Serve them warm with some lovely lactose free custard or ice cream, and drizzled with some of the pretty pink juices. No wonder that traditionally the quince is considered to be the 'apple' from the Garden of Eden.
So my dear Readers, can you be tempted with a quince or two?
This month is a Celebratory Month!
Not only did I have a Quite Significant Birthday, but it will also be my First Blogaversary too. Let the good times roll!
To help the party atmosphere I thought I'd have a couple of giveaways in the next few weeks.
On offer this week is a pack of two lovely pink themed Donna Hay Tea towels. So very pretty and really way too nice to wipe dishes with, but whose dishes don't deserve the best?
All you need to do to enter, is to leave a comment at the end of this post, that's it, easy huh? Oh- but you have to make sure I can contact you if you win, so no anonymous comments, OK.
I have really enjoyed this blogging adventure- despite recent Blogger issues like missing posts, grrrrr, and have met some lovely people along the way- like Celia, Anna,Kath, and have such a lovely core group of followers and readers who always make sure to comment. You have no idea how I appreciate you all Lovelies!
I also want to say a special thank you to Lorraine of Notquitenigella, who has commented on every single post from day one. Food blogs as a whole were really new to me, but hers was one I really enjoy and look forward to every morning, so I was so excited to check my poor little tentative first post and discover that Lorraine had condescended to comment on mine! I was so encouraged and haven't looked back since.
So Share the Love I say, and don't forget to comment to win!