What do with the quince harvest

My neighbour has a beautiful quince tree in her garden that delivers a bumper harvest most years and this year is no exception. Over the years, we’ve developed quite a repertoire of recipes for them: quince infused brandy, ‘quincemeat’, quince and salted lemon chutney and quince and apple sorbet. Oven roasted, they are great with pork. Cooked down with sugar and strained to a jelly, they are the basis of the popular Spanish accompaniment for cheese, membrillo.

Quinces

Raw quinces look like giant pears covered with peach fuzz. They have a wonderful aroma if you keep them in a fruit bowl in the kitchen but they have to be cooked before they give up their delicious flavour. It tastes something like a cross between an apple, a peach and a pear with a hint of honey. Once peeled, they will brown quickly so pop the peeled fruit into a large bowl of water dosed with a few drops of lemon juice. Once cooked, the flesh will go from white to pink.

Roast QuincesBaked quinces: Peel and core the quinces, cut them into generous chunks and place them in a large, shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of golden caster sugar, one of soft brown sugar and a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Dot with butter and bake at 180°C for about an hour until soft. Served with whipped cream.

You could also purée the roasted fruit and use it as the base for an apple tart or in place of apple sauce with roast pork.

Quince sorbet: Make a sugar syrup with 350g golden caster sugar and 350ml of boiling water. Add the flesh of 600g of quinces (peeled and cored) to the syrup in a large non-stick saucepan. Bring to the boil and allow the mixture to simmer for around 20 minutes until the quince is cooked. Liquidise the quince and syrup whilst still warm and then pass it through a fine sieve. You should end up with about 800ml of silky purée. Add the juice of a lemon and then chill in the fridge. Churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions.

Quince brandy: Rinse, dry and coarsely chop 4-6 quinces (no need to peel or core) and place them in a 5 litre Mason jar. Cover with inexpensive brandy (keep the bottles) and add 2 small cinnamon sticks and 2 star anise. Leave to infuse for 6 weeks before drinking. Decant the brandy back into the original bottles, discard the spices, retain some of the fruit to make ‘quincemeat’. I use the brandy to flavour my Christmas cake, a drop in the bottom of a fluted glass topped up with Prosecco as a Christmas cocktail.

‘Quincemeat’: Use your favourite mincemeat recipe for making your Christmas mince pies and substitute some of the brandy infused quince (chopped into small pieces) for a little of the chopped apple you’d normally use. It will add a sublime twist to homemade mince pies, you could even cheat and add a little to a good quality shop-bought variety.

Quince and salted lemon chutney (makes about 1 litre): This is a perfect accompaniment to curries and tanginess.

  • 4 quinces, 1 unwaxed lemon, sea salt, 5cm piece of fresh ginger, 2 cloves of garlic, 350ml cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon of groundnut oil, 1/2 tsp of Nigella seeds (kalonji), 1 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/4 tsp fennel seeds, 325g golden caster sugar.
  • Cut the lemon, including the skin but without the pips, into 5mm dice and put in a glass jar. Add a teaspoon of salt, shake to mix. Cover the the jar and leave on a sunny windowsill for two or three days. Shake the jar every day.
  • Peel the garlic and ginger. Blend to a smooth paste with half of the vinegar. Pour the remaining vinegar into a non-metallic bowl. Peel and core the quinces, cut into 6 to 8 pieces and then into 3mm slices. Drop them into the vinegar.
  • Add the oil to a preserving pan on a medium heat. Drop in the fennel seeds, allow to sizzle for a few seconds. Add the ginger and garlic paste, stir and then add the quince, vinegar, sugar, fennel and cayenne pepper. Bring to the boil, stir gently.
  • Reduce the heat to low, allow the chutney to simmer gently for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Allow it to cool and then bottle in sterilised jars.

Membrillo (quince paste): This copper coloured slab of quince heaven is the perfect accompaniment to mature and salty cheeses. You will need 800g of caster sugar for every kilo of prepared fruit. Wash, peel, core and cube the raw quince fruit. Add the fruit and sugar to a large saucepan, place over a gentle heat and keep stirring. Once it’s cooking, cover to prevent evaporation and stir every 10 minutes. After about 30 minutes the fruit should look sloppy. Uncover and allow to reduce to a light syrup which will take about an hour. Use a hand blender to purée until smooth. Store in sterilised jars or a large shallow plastic container so you can cut it into slabs.  It will keep in the fridge for six months.

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English Carrot Cake

In the school holidays, it’s always nice to have a homemade cake around for children and drop-in visitors. This is actually a good one for kids to help make and, as it’s moist texture comes from sweet grated carrots, it’s almost one of your five a day! Unlike American carrot cake, this is made with butter rather than oil and has a thin drizzle of citrus icing rather than a thick covering of sweetened cream cheese frosting. I like both versions but this one is a little less sickly.

English carrot cake

  • 285g plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs at room temperature, beaten
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • 225g unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla essence
  • 225g carrots, grated
  • The zest and juice of an orange
  • The juice of a lime
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of pistachio nuts, chopped

To make…

  • Preheat the oven to 170°C.
  • Grease a 900g loaf tin and line the base with baking parchment.
  • In a separate bowl, grate the carrots and stir in the zest of the orange and half of the juice.
  • Sift the flour, bicarb, salt, cinnamon and ginger together in a large mixing bowl.
  • Melt the butter in a small pan and allow to cool slightly, then whisk in the vanilla and eggs.
  • Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture, add the butter and egg mixture and stir thoroughly before adding and incorporating the carrots. Turn into the prepared loaf tin – once you’ve added the wet and dry ingredients together the bicarb will activate and the cake mixture needs to be cooked immediately.
  • Bake in the centre of the oven on the middle shelf. Set the alarm for an hour and check to see if it’s cooked. The top should spring back when you press it lightly with your fingertip. Ovens vary so pop it back in for another 10 minutes or so if it’s not ready. Be careful not to overbake it as that will dry it out.
  • When the cake is ready, take it out of the oven and set it on a wire rack in the tin to cool for 10 minutes before you turn it out.
  • Once the cake is completely cool you can ice it.
  • Put the icing sugar into a small bowl and stir in the fresh lime juice. Add drops of the remaining fresh orange juice until you have drizzling-quality icing.
  • Drizzle the icing sugar evenly over the cake with a spoon. Scatter over the chopped pistachios. Delicious with a cuppa.
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Kisir

If you’ve been to Turkey on holiday, it’s highly likely that you’ll have been served a Kisir salad just like this as part of a mezze. The combination of nutty bulgur wheat in spicy tomato and harissa marinade mixed with fresh herbs, cucumber, spring onions and tomatoes is a real taste of summer. This recipe takes about 30 minutes to make and will easily serve six people if you’re serving it with BBQ meats and other Mediterranean side dishes  – we like BBQ courgettes and peppers with it.

Kisir

  • 250ml boiling water
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 generous teaspoons of rose harissa paste (I use the Belazu brand – you can buy it at Sainsbury’s)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 200g bulgur wheat, rinsed
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 60ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • Zest and juice of half a lemon
  • Generous handful each of fresh mint, flat leaf parsley (coriander is also nice), finely chopped
  • Six spring onions, cleaned and finely chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, quartered

To make…

  • Mix the boiling water, tomato paste, salt and harissa paste together thoroughly in a bowl. Add the bulgur wheat, stir, cover with cling film and leave to stand for 15 to 20 minutes until the liquid has been completely absorbed.
  • Prep the herbs, spring onions, tomatoes and cucumber whilst the bulgur wheat is absorbing the spiced tomato liquid.
  • Fluff the bulgur wheat up with a fork and stir in the cumin, olive oil, pomegranate molasses, lemon zest and juice.
  • Stir in the spring onions, tomatoes, cucumber and fresh herbs. Serve at room temperature.
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Stuffed Courgette Flowers with Farleigh Wallop

I love this ‘homage to fromage’ blog, loads of great recipes and well worth following.

Fromage Homage

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I can only apologise for more courgettes. But such is my life at the moment. This recipe, however, focuses on the flowers. As abundant as their fruit at this time of year, courgette and pumpkin flowers are all over my allotment. Thanks to an industrious squirrel burying pumpkin seeds all over my garden during the spring, they have also randomly appeared in a selection of borders and pots over here too. Waste not, want not; they are delicious in a risotto with sliced baby courgettes and, of course, stuffed, battered and deep-fried.

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Linguine with tomato and tuna sauce

This is one of those quick, simple, inexpensive but ‘oh so tasty’ pasta dishes that you’ll make over and over again. You only need to use a few basic store cupboard ingredients and you can have this ready for lunch or supper in about 20 minutes.

Linguine bolognese

You will need…(serves 4)

  • 2 tablespoons of light olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 400g tin of plum tomatoes
  • 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar
  • 400g linguine
  • 160g tin of tuna, drained
  • 40g grated Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper

To make…

  • Heat the oil in a large frying pan and sweat the onions for about 10 minutes until soft, sweet and golden. Add the tomatoes, sugar and salt, simmer gently.
  • Cook the linguine according to the instructions on the pack – it’s usually 10 minutes in a large pan of boiling salted water.
  • By the time the pasta is ready, the sauce should have reduced. Stir in the tuna.
  • Drain the pasta and tip it into the sauce, coat each strand thoroughly.
  • Serve in warm bowls and top with the Parmesan cheese and black pepper.
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