06 August, 2008

Pinching quince

Quince and I became friends in Spain. I was staying with a friend in Valldolid, and it was brought out for an evening snack. After experiencing its sweetness and dissolving texture (coupled, of course, with a semi-cured cheese) I could but stumble out 'Que es?'. 'Membrillo' was the answer and for the remainder of my stay any hostly query as to whether there was anything I wanted was answered with 'Más membrillo'.

It was sometime after that before I actually saw an example of the fruit, quince. Inspired by its flavour and texture in every form - jam, butter, paste - I resolved to cook some myself this year. Happily the decision to do so coincided with the recent bloggers' meet, at which plenty of attendees could offer advice. Thanks especially to Cindy at where's the beef, for pointing me to KJ's sumptuous photographs and cooking challenges at A Cracking Good Egg. Caroline Velik had also done a spread on quinces in Epicure a few weeks back.

I'm not a meticulous cook, and cut and pasted a process together from these multiple sources. A modest two quinces were quartered and cored, with the pips and cores added (in a muslin bag - I used a crepe bandage!) for the cooking, along with sugar syrup, lemon and vanilla essence. That went, covered, in a casserole dish into the oven, for five hours. To make quince jelly one uses the liquid left after this process, which I did, but sort of ended up with quince toffee (not complaining). In the absence of a food mill I mushed the cut fruit through a sieve (a food processor would probably do the same job more quickly and noisily), then heated it with half its weight in caster sugar, for about 45 minutes over low heat.

According to KJ and Maggie Beer, at this point one should spread the paste on a tray and leave it to dry. What I had tasted right, although it was a little more pink than red, so it went straight to containers:
Perhaps a more inspiring picture from the weekend is this tagine:
Taken from the perennially pertinent Seasonal Produce Diary, it's a dish to warm the room and the soul. Fry onion till soft, add ginger, ground spices, passata, chicken stock and seasoning. Pour over diced blade steak, in a casserole, and bake for 2-2.5 hours. As accompaniment, sliced parsnips were doused with coriander, paprika and cumin, drizzled with olive oil and laid on a tray with some more chicken stock to cook alongside the tagine. Delish.


  1. Quince toffee - sounds like a delicious diversion from the original recipe. :-)

  2. Hey Cindy! Yes, it was a happy, unexpected outcome! I think I've come to the conclusion that to do quince well produces something of wonder, but whatever you do with it it's a delicious fruit.

  3. I have absolutely no idea what a quince is, but accidentally making toffee from anything is awesome. I accidentally made toffee/caramel from dates (though I'm not sure if it was really accidental as I didn't know what I was making) and it was a very happy occurrence.

  4. Hi Foodiefi, thanks for the kind comments. I agree quinces are a wonderful and versatile fruit. I hope your membrillo comes out okay.

  5. Hey Bogger: I remember all too well the time when I didn't know a quince from a squash, but I would contend that finding out about it can be life changing! I'm quite taken with the notion of date caramel/toffee.

    KJ: Thanks again for the inspiration and information. The membrillo's going well so far, all that's missing is some brie to get the ultimate membrillo taste experience going!