Cooking with Quince by Gill Meller
It's Organic September, and as we start thinking more about eating seasonally, we're looking just ahead into Autumn, when quince comes into season.
This firm, yellow-skinned fruit has become something of a lost soul in recent years, due to a lack of recipes and sour taste when raw. Yet Gill Meller, renowned chef and close member of the River Cottage team, reassures us that quince remains one of the ultimate foods for the autumnal season.
Taken from his book, 'Gather' Gill's recipes are inspired by his environment, celebrating the very finest in seasonal British cooking.
Makes 3–4 large jam jars
"Quince cheese is one of my favourite things to make with this fragrant fruit, preserving all amazing texture and perfume for months to come. The cheese has the most enchanting deep-red colour, a result of the slow and gentle cooking process. It makes a delicious accompaniment to actual cheese, especially (and famously) Spanish manchego, or a ripe, blue-veined cheese, or a soft goat’s or sheep’s cheese. You can also try it with roast meats, such as pheasant or chicken, or with baked ham. I quite often melt a spoonful into gravy to give it a fruity sweetness."
- 1kg (2lb 4oz) quince, roughly chopped
- About 500g (1lb 2oz) granulated sugar
Place the fruit into a large heavy-based saucepan or preserving pan and cover with water, so that the waterline sits a few centimetres/an inch or so above the line of the fruit. Place the pan on a high heat and bring the water up to a simmer.
Place the lid on the pan, turn down the heat and simmer for about 60 minutes, until the fruit is soft and broken down and you’re left with something approaching a fruit pulp. (If you don’t have a lid, don’t worry – just keep an eye on the amount of water in the pan and top up if you need to.)
Once the fruit is cooked, remove the pan from the heat and allow it to stand for 30 minutes or so. Then, place a sturdy sieve over a bowl and tip the pulp out of the pan into the sieve. Use the back of a ladle to force the pulp through the sieve into the bowl. Alternatively, you can put the pulp through a mouli, if you have one.
Weigh the contents of the bowl and add two-thirds of that weight in granulated sugar. Clean the cooking pan, and then return the sweetened quince mixture to it.
Set it over a medium heat and bring it up to a simmer, stirring or whisking regularly for about 60 minutes or more, until the mixture has thickened so that a wooden spoon dragged through it reveals the base of the pan for a couple of seconds before the mixture comes together again. It may begin to bubble, but keep stirring and it won’t burn. Don’t rush. Pour the quince into sterilized jars (see p. 144) and seal. Store in a cool place (it will keep for several months) until you’re ready to use it.
Quince Tarte Tatin
"I’ve made quite a few tartes Tatin, and every time it feels exciting. It’s ‘the reveal’ that I look forward to the most – that point of jeopardy, when you invert the pan onto a plate before serving. Sweet dessert apples are the classic fruit to use for tarte Tatin, of course, but here I’ve used quince, which works beautifully with sprigs of fresh thyme and star anise in the pan."
- 4 medium–large quinces, peeled, quartered and cored
- 2 knobs of butter
- 75g (2½oz) light brown soft sugar
- 2 star anise
- 4–6 thyme sprigs
- 200g (7oz) all-butter puff pastry
Cut each quince quarter into 3 or 4 wedges, each about 1cm (½in) thick at the outer edge. Place a large frying pan over a medium heat. Melt the butter in the pan, then add the sugar and 1 tablespoon of water.
When everything starts to bubble, add the quince pieces. Cook the quince for 15–20 minutes, turning the wedges very gently so as not to break them up, but helping to ensure they cook evenly and equally, until they’re almost tender.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. When the quince is ready, remove the pan from the heat and scoop out the cooked wedges onto a plate to cool a little, reserving the caramel in the pan. Add the star anise and thyme sprigs to the pan, keeping it off the heat.
When the quince is cool enough to handle, place the cooked wedges back in the pan, arranging them carefully to make two concentric circles of quince slices, beginning in the centre of the tart. Press the wedges down lightly into the pan.
Roll out the pastry to 3mm (⅛in) thick and cut it into a circle that will fit snugly over your quince pieces. Lay it over, gently tucking in the pastry edges around the inside edge of the pan.
Bake the tart in the oven for 30–35 minutes, until the pastry is well risen and golden, then remove the pan from the oven. Allow the tart to rest in the pan for 10–15 minutes, then place a plate over the pan and in one quick, flipping motion, invert the tart onto the plate.
Carefully lift away the pan for your reveal! Serve the tarte tatin immediately with double cream, vanilla ice cream, or custard on the side.