The celebrations for Apple day started last week end. I held a cooking with apples demonstration in Crouch End. There, a few hundred of the local community came to celebrate apples, with an old fashioned apple press, apple cakes, varieties galore with bizarre names and a fascinating talk from John Selborne of the Blackmoor Nursery in Hampshire on the evolution of the apple from it's origins in Kazakhstan.
For my demo, as well as green tomato & apple chutney, I side stepped slightly from the apple to introduce a first cousin, the blessed English quince.
Every year I look forward to the arrival of quince. The English quince can be hard to get hold of. But asking around and generally letting all and sundry know, you will find some. As I did, and I thank Gemma Harris of Urban Harvest who put me touch with Hazel, the owner of a tree in Tottenham. Hazel amazed me by saying her neighbour was getting annoyed at the quinces dropping into her garden - Oh the lucky, lucky neighbour, I can only dream of such a problem.
It wasn't long before I was clasping a bag of the blessed quinces, inhaling the intoxicating sweet fragrance. A bowl of quince will perfume a whole room.
The quince originates from the Caucasus region and naturally plays a role in the exotic and refined cuisine of Persia, where they will cook the fragrant and sour fruit with meat, cinnamon, saffron, lemon and rice (Khoresh-e beh). It also makes excellent jam, jellies and syrup, in a similar way the seville oranges makes great marmalade. The Portuguese make marmelo from quince, the original marmalade. The Spanish make membrillo, a thick quince cheese served with manchego. The hard and sour fruit needs to be boiled or baked for a fairly long time and as it cooks its pale colour gives way to beautiful pink hue through to rose red.
For the demo I baked the quince with a fairly impromptu selection from my cupboard. Giving the Western Asian origins recognition in my choice of flavours. I selected a handful of dates, cinnamon, rose water, a splash of brandy, brown sugar, a handful of pistachios and some melted butter. All mixed together and poured into the little cavity where you hollow out the tough core, baked in the oven until soft and red with the sugar and spices turned to an unctuous caramel. The texture of the dates remain chewy against the melting quince with the crunch of some fresh nuts thrown in as garnish. Oh light the fire quick, this is a hearth side treat.
It is easy to see how this would work very well with roasted pheasant or any game for that matter.
Chopped dates, soft brown sugar, rose water, cinnamon, butter & brandy poured into the cavity and into the oven
2 Hours later the fruit is soft, the dates are chewy with a deep cinnamon laced caramel
- 4 Quinces
- 50gms dates
- 100gm soft brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons rosewater
- 50gms melted butter
- 50gms chopped pistachios
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- Glug of brandy or eau de vie
- 1 cup of water
Preheat the oven to 180C
- Wash the quinces and slice in half. Dig out the seeds and hollow out the woody core.
- Chop the dates, mix with all the other ingredients except the water. Reserve half the pistachios.
- Place in a baking dish and fill the mixture into the cavity of the quinces. Add one cup of water, cover with foil.
- Place in the oven for 2 hours. Check after an hour and pour a little more water if drying out. You want to see a dark syrupy sauce developing.
- When soft and cooked through, garnish with some chopped pistachios and serve with greek style yogurt or cream.