Quince is a rather strange but beautiful fruit, a rarely eaten cousin of the apple and pear, and visually, a cross between the two. I am lucky enough to have a beautiful quince tree in my garden, which displays the most magnificent blossom, as well as producing large, healthy fruits each year. Quince fruit is extremely hard and tart, and for this reason, cannot be eaten uncooked. But as with most crops, it can have its moment during which to shine.
Quince is high in pectin, and is used to make jam and jelly, and its delightful floral perfume adds depth and sophistication to apple pies, and autumn casseroles. Membrillo, a delicious quince paste that is eaten with manchego cheese in Spain, is the colour of a deep, burnt orange sunset, and offers a perfect contrast to the buttery notes of the cheese.
I love to experiment with ingredients and add my own twist to meals, and I do like to champion foods that are often disregarded. Last autumn, when I had friends to stay and wanted to offer them a seasonal dessert, I decided I must try and use the quince fruits that were sitting in a bowl in my kitchen (a few of them placed in a bowl impart an amazing scent in the kitchen, that lasts for days).
I had already made a large meringue, to which I was going to add the usual whipped cream and some berries, so I thought I would substitute the berries with the quince fruits. I thinly sliced (no need to peel the skin) and lightly poached two of them in a little water, along with a couple of star anise, a small stick of cinnamon, and a tablespoon of grated jaggery, to add the sweetness required to balance the tartness.
Once they were cooked and softened, I removed the now pretty pink slices of quince (cooked quince transforms into a pink/orange colour), and discarded the spices, saving one star anise to garnish the meringue and also acknowledge the quince’s starring role. It was soon to have its moment. I poured the gorgeous thickened juices into a jug for serving.
When it was time to serve dessert, I laid the quince on top of the prepared meringue, and served each guest a slice, with a little of the delicious, caramelised juice poured over.
I am not a dessert person most of the time, but I absolutely have to try my own twist on a meal, and I have to say this was a gorgeous outcome, and the perfect moment for quince fruit to shine…. oh and if I may talk aesthetics, the white meringue and the deep pinky orange colour of the poached quince looked rather pleasing too!
Let’s hear it for quince!