Three Ways With Quince

When I’m bowling along to work on the bike I’ve noticed a street in the next village called The Coigncroft.

I’d like to think it’s a medieval Anglo French place name and that it was where quince trees once grew.

I planted quince trees (Vranja variety) both in my old allotment in Trowse (see pic) and here at Plovers Hill

A bowl of quince are a wonderful fruit that brighten any room with their colour and fragrance.

The deep yellow fruit are covered with an intriguing grey silvery down that washes or rubs off easily to reveal the hard gold coloured waxy skin underneath.

They need cooking as they’re are too hard and bitter to eat raw.

Quince blossom is one of the joys of spring. The pale pink handkerchief-like flowers droop languidly between the new velvety lime green leaves

They can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes and feature extensively in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cookery.

You can roast whole with the skins on, or peel and quarter them.

Be careful with your sharp knife though – they can be tough to keep stable when you make the first cut – a bit like pumpkins.

They turn a deep red if you cook them for a couple of hours at a simmer on a very low heat.

Last week I made a butter bean and quince tagine –  a dish of left overs that also included steamed chopped ruby chard.

I imagine  Moroccan style chickpeas and quince would be good – the lemony tart flavour of the quince replacing the need for, say, preserved lemon or something else acidic to lift and balance the flavours of the dish.

Anyway this year’s crop has been good.

I have made quince vodka – adapted from an old Jane Grigison recipe.

It’s basically a litre of vodka poured over three quite large quince that I grated – skin and all – and 60g caster sugar.

Leave untouched until Christmas except for the occasional shake or inversion and then drink.

 

My friend Steve who came earlier in the year to help me do some gardening says this about quince:

“They are amazing in apple pie. Just one, peeled & cored, and cooked in a light sugar syrup before adding to the apples. The recipe I used had me cook down all the cores and peel with water and sugar and then pass through a sieve to give an amazing amber syrup that was added to the pie filling.”

Don’t throw away the core and peel of the quince you have prepared to cook. Cover with water and cook for a long time on a very low heat and you’ll be left with great quince juice that you can use in the quince cake recipe or sweetened and reduced as a sauce.

I did the same to make the quince cake recipe that I found online from a Serbian cook although I didn’t add sugar – only adding it to the main cake mixture later as per the instructions.

The cake is wonderful –  here is the recipe.

If you don’t have a bundt tin with a hole in the middle – improvise like I did.

I used an upside down greased ramekin in the middle of the cake tin and poured the cake batter around it.

Another thing to make is membrillo – or quince paste.

It will keep for a good year or so.

Be careful when stirring it on the stove as it’s like molten lava and can spit and burn quite badly.

Cool the paste in a greased tray and keep in a tin with a lid

To make quince paste – roast/bake your quinces in the oven making sure to cover them in a large baking tray/dish.

After a couple of hours – when cooked – push through a food mill or mouli with skins and cores.

Weigh the puree and add an equal weight of caster sugar.

Cook in a saucepan for ages stirring with a wooden spoon until your arm drops off!

Then, once it turns a deep red and pulls away from the side of the pan, turn out into a greased tray to cool and set.

Cut into diamonds and dust in sugar and store in layers of greaseproof paper in a tin.

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Spicy Lentil soup and Pear Cake

 

We have a good crop of apples and pears.

They’re from the trees my father, Jim, planted twenty five years ago.

He died in 2010 but his small orchard continues to produce fruit – even though it hasn’t been terribly well looked after!

Does anyone else find pruning hard even though they’ve supposedly been taught how?

Anyway Dad obviously chose a range of earlies, mid season and late croppers to lengthen the season and we have some wonderful varieties like Sturmer Pippin, Worcester Pearmain, James Grieve, Katie and the ubiquitous Bramley.

Some like Fiesta can last until next spring without spoiling if they are stored properly.

An enjoyable annual visit

The pears are more difficult and tend to need eating straightaway.

They mature from the inside – so you often find the fruit is firmer when you first bite into it and become softer towards the core.

I made this upside down pear cake based on this recipe by Kate Ford for a group who visited on Monday from nearby Lingwood Care Farm.

I enjoyed their visit so much I forgot to take photos.

Suffice to say all we had tea and cake.

We then picked up windfalls in the orchard – the bruised ones were put in a separate bag and will be fed to their pigs.

I used freshly milled chia seeds with water as an egg replacement as suggested (I ground them in the small coffee grinder I have).

I used four smallish pears quartered, cored and sliced instead of the plums in the recipe but otherwise it exactly the same.

Do check the margarine you use is vegan – I’ve been caught out.

It said “made from plants” on the tub of Flora I was using BUT on closer inspection, in tiny writing on the back, it said “contains milk and buttermilk”.

 

Other fruit needs to be picked

This weekend I picked about 10 kilos of damson plums just in the nick of time and froze them.

Many had a started going mouldy on the tree or had fallen onto the grass below!

It’s easy to get distracted by other things and end up wasting the gorgeous fruit.

It’s good stewed in the winter or drowned in vodka or gin to make a ruby red liqueur.

Last year’s Damson Vodka. You can see on the green jar I put 130g sugar in the bottom before covering the fruit with alcohol and leaving for a few months.

Planting out winter veg

I have been clearing some old spent plants to make way for oriental mustards, mizuna, mibuna and pak choi (I’ll be interested to see if they and the lettuce can be cropped throughout most of the winter if I protect them with heavier 30g fleece).

So all bar one of the courgette plants are now on the new compost heap.

The last one has produced a couple of nice “zucchini” which I used in a lentil soup with potato and some of the wonderfully fragrant Lemon Drop and Cayenne chillies I’ve grown.

Lemon Drop peppers from Peru have a wonderful citrus flavour
5 from 1 vote
Spicy Courgette and Lentil Soup
Author: Cath
Ingredients
  • 150 g dried split red lentils
  • 2 courgettes or zucchini (about 350g)
  • 2 potatoes (about 200g)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 or 3 chillies (I used red Cayenne and yellow Lemon Drop)
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
  • 1.5 litres vegetable stock (I use Marigold Bouillon)
Instructions
  1. Cook the red split lentils in about twice the volume of water until soft. Make sure you skim off the white froth with a big metal spoon. This usually takes bout 15 minutes.

  2. Finely chop onion, garlic and chillies (I remove most of the seeds as it then becomes too spicy for my Mum to eat)

  3. Fry them in a large saucepan in 2 tbsp olive oil over a fairly high heat until fragrant

  4. Add diced potatoes and courgettes (I leaves skins on my potatoes as they are really sound and unblemished) and cook for another couple of minutes stirring to make sure they don't catch on the bottom of the pan

  5. Add cooked lentils and vegetable stock to cover (I said 1.5 litres in the ingredients but would use less or more as you see fit) and simmer with lid on for half an hour

  6. Check vegetables are soft and mash by hand with a potato masher for a rough rustic blend or with a hand stick blender for a smoother soup

  7. Garnish with chopped fresh coriander leaves. 

  8. If you didn't have the Lemon Drop chillies use ordinary red ones and add a little finely zested lemon rind or a squeeze of lemon juice to really make this soup sparkle.

    Season to taste

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Red and Black Currant Shortbread

We still have great strings of redcurrants hanging from the bush in our garden.

I made a couple more bottles of cordial which are now in the fridge (see earlier post for recipe).

We’ve frozen some.

And so I thought I better come up with another idea to use them.

I thought of a German redcurrant meringue shortbread but I still haven’t got my head around how to make vegan meringues.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered a friend talking about making shortbread and using the mixture as a sandwich for blackcurrants.

So with a little inspiration from this blog I came up with this recipe.

The shortbread base has just come out of the oven. Now the currants and topping (the same as the base but with ground almonds added) are about to go on.

Scandinavian touch

It worked really well.

I love the unique perfume and taste of the cardamom.

The spice is used a lot in Scandinavian pastries and cakes.

You could add an extra teaspoon of it if you like.

The fruit is tart and the shortbread is sweet but not too sweet.

 

 

5 from 1 vote
Red and Blackcurrant Shortcake
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
1 hr
 
Course: Dessert
Servings: 12
Author: Cath
Ingredients
  • 350 g plain, white flour
  • 250 g vegan margarine or spread
  • 120 g golden granulated sugar
  • 3 tsp ground cardamom
  • 60 g ground almonds
  • A pinch salt
  • 300 g redcurrants and blackcurrants cleaned and desprigged
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 celsius (350F or Gas Mark 4)

  2. Sieve flour into big bowl and add a pinch of salt 

  3. Add margarine and rub in until it resembles breadcrumbs

  4. Add ground cardamom seeds (the little brown and black very hard seeds inside the pods) and sugar  and amalgamate well

  5. Press half the mixture into the bottom of a 8 or 9 inch cake or tart tin (preferably with a loose bottom) greased and lined with parchment or greaseproof paper and lightly prick with a fork

  6. Put in the oven for 10 minutes and then remove

  7. Pour a mixture of red and black currants onto cooked shortbread base

  8. Add ground almonds to remainder of shortbread mixture and mix well before pressing evenly on top of currants

  9. Put whole thing back into the oven for another 15 - 20 minutes until golden brown

  10. Remove and leave on rack to cool - mark out into slices and eat 

 

 

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