Tag Archives: Quince

Quick Quince Paste – Membrillo

I still have a mound of quinces in the kitchen and today I’m going to fill the house with the unforgettable perfume of their bubbling sugary paste. The firm jelly, Membrillo  (or dulce de membrillo  in Spanish – membrillo just means quince – let’s get pedantic!), is perfect with Sheep’s cheese, the best known being Manchego.  I love it with lots of other cheeses too especially anything blue. The Italians eat their version, cotognata, chopped into cubes as little sweeties. The Portuguse add a little dash of port with a pinch of cinnamon and call their quince paste marmelada (a quince is a marmelo and so there, apparently, is the origin of marmalade) Now I’m rambling as usual and I’d promised myself to do my first quick post ever. So here it is – a recipe from my first book The Food of Northern Spain which, rather conveniently has a beautiful picture of the quince and the paste on the cover. Jean Casals is a master of food photography and so I’ll happily use his image here instead of trying to cobble something together myself.Membrillo

My recipe is very traditional except for the last little section – the microwave tip! Now my microwave is usually reserved for melting chocolate, butter and perhaps re-heating a soup but I decided to give this shortcut a stab a few years ago and now, unless I’m making catering quantities of membrillo, it’s my foolproof method.

Dulce de membrillo

1 kg/ 2 lb quinces
750 g / 1 ½ lb sugar- approximately (see method)

Wash the quinces and wipe off any of the  suede-like down  but leave the skin on. Now remove the core and cut the fruit into small rough chunks. Don’t worry about the fruit discolouring your paste will be a deep rusty brown by the time you have finished.

Place the fruit in heavy pan with about 300 ml/½ pint water. Boil the quince until it softens, about 20 – 30 minutes and then strain off the water.

Now you need to make a puree, and by far the best piece of equipment for this is the mouli-légumes, (or pasapurés as it’s known in Spain) as you want to leave all the skin behind. You could use a potato masher and then push the puree through a fine sieve but it would be a lot more faff and your mouli will always make the best mashed potato in the world so it’s worth the investment.

Now weigh the puree and add an equal weight of sugar.

Cook really gently until the sugar has dissolved and then turn up the heat and boil until the mixture thickens. This will probably take at least an hour of fairly constant stirring, so have a relay organised and just make sure you have good oven-gloves and wear long sleeves; the hot jelly spits like volcanic lava. The puree will thicken up and turn deep red and the spoon will virtually stand up by itself.

Now spread the paste out in a layer about 3 cm/1 inch thick in a tin about 20 cm/ 6 inches square,  lined with greased paper. Allow to set for about 12 hours.

& now for the life’s too short microwave method:

Once you have your fruit puree mixed with the sugar, then place it in a deep glass bowl, with plenty of room for expansion as it will bubble up quite a bit.Cover with microwave cling film. Now microwave on medium for 10 -15 minutes and then give it a stir (take great care it could give you a nasty burn). Repeat the process 2 more times until the paste is really dark and thick. You may need to increase or decrease the time a little according to your microwave. Tip out onto the greased paper as before.

And just a couple of ideas:

* You can make the paste with apples too – I came across a dulce de manzana in The Basque Country, served with local Idiazabal cheese. Use the same method but add just 100g more sugar. I made some last year, using eaters rather than cookers and it reminded me of the deeply appley-caramelised flavour of Tarte Tatin.
*I’ve just discovered this Ottolenghi recipe that I will just HAVE to try : Membrillo and Stilton Quiche.  Aargh mouth’s watering – I need to go for some lunch.

Roasted Quince with Bath Blue Cheese & Lentil Salad

Last year I spotted a quince tree, laden with fruit in a Bristol garden as I parked up my car. Quinces are mysterious things; they’re too hard and too sour to consider eating raw. You can’t even whip up a tart or a crumble as you might with an apple because the flesh takes so much longer to soften and mellow. So, many a forgotten quince languishes, unloved on a tree in this country until it rots and drops. I posted a note through the door of the house where I’d eyed them up, offering some cash and even a good slice of membrillo, but never heard a thing.  This year I got a message from some wonderful friends Mike and Viv in Bishopston who offered me a few of theirs. I jumped at the chance, grabbed my basket, slipped on my quince-yellow top (who can miss a photo opportunity?) and set off.

Mike was ridiculously generous and I finished up with at least a dozen quinces. They’ve been sitting in a bowl filling the kitchen with their unforgettable perfume and looking so beautiful that I could barely bring myself to cook them. You can see why they are reputed to be the original golden love apple of Aphrodite.
I’m going to make some membrillo (the solid quince paste that the Spanish love to eat with cheese – particularly Manchego) later in the week, but yesterday I baked a few of the fruit until deep coppery red and as  tender as a canned pear.Quinces perfuming the kitchen

Baked Quinces

100 g butter
4 heaped tbsp of soft brown sugar
4 medium quinces
1 stick of cinnamon.

Now these really couldn’t be simpler. Pre-heat the oven to a medium temperature around about 170º C. Place a heatproof dish in the oven with the butter and sugar just to melt and dissolve a little.
Meanwhile peel and quarter the quinces (unless they are very tiny and you might like to leave them in halves) I used my trusty melon-baller to remove the cores but you could just use a knife.

Take the dish from the oven and roll the fruit around in the sugary butter. Add a stick of cinnamon  and then cover tightly with foil. Put back in the oven for 2-3 hours until the fruit is really tender and a deep brick-red. It’s wise to take a peek at hourly intervals just to check that there’s a bit of moisture in the dish, your packaging may not be as steam-tight as you think. Just add a slosh of water (or wine/Masala) if it’s looking rather sticky and dry – you musn’t let those precious juices burn.

Eat warm or cold.

Baked quince with cinn

And what to do with those baked quinces:

I would always recommend baking a few quinces at a time and then using them in all sorts of different ways. Play around with the flavours adding any, but not all, of the following : vanilla, star anise, wine, port, Creme de cassis, honey or maple syrup.

*Serve warm with clotted cream, Greek honey with yoghurt, vanilla ice cream or rice pudding.
*Add some cooked quince to an apple pie or crumble – about 1/5 quince to 4/5 apple (it’s quite a strong flavour)
*Stir into a simple lamb tagine instead of apricots – I’ll type up my favourite recipe sometime but here’s one to keep you going from Jill Dupleix. Just add roasted rather than poached quinces.
* Serve with a blue cheese and lentil salad as I did at The Great Bath Feast.

Baked Quince, Bath Blue and Lentil Salad (serves 4)

1 x simple lentil salad (below)
1 baked quince ( as above), diced into 1 cm squares
200 g Bath Blue cheese, or any creamy cow’s milk blue
1 handful of walnut halves
2 sticks of celery, finely sliced
100 g watercress

Carefully stir about 2/3rd of your quince, blue cheese, walnuts, celery and watercress into the lentils. Be gentle you don’t want the cheese to collapse and make the entire salad look milky.

Spoon onto individual plates or onto a large serving platter and sprinkle over the remaining ingredients.

The Basic Lentil Salad (from my new book PULSE)

250 g/9 oz Puy, Castellucio lentils, or other tiny green lentils – rinsed
1 bay leaf
1 small red onion
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
salt and black pepper
4 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
Place the lentils in a pan with the bay leaf and cover with cold water by about 5 cm/ 2 inches . Bring them up to the boil and then simmer for about 20-30 minutes until tender but still intact.

Pour the vinegar over the red  onion and leave to soak. The onion will turn fuschia pink and become softer in both texture and flavour.

Drain the lentils, reserving their cooking liquid, and whilst still warm add the vinegar, olive oil and season well with salt and black pepper. Once cool stir in the chopped parsley and add a little cooking water if the salad seems dry.

And -you can of course use this basic lentil salad as the base of dozens of variations eg beetroot and feta, chicken and avocado, Piquillo pepper and Montenebro goat’s cheese. The best place to look for these ideas is without a doubt (you guessed it) my new book!

If you came to my demo on Sunday in the great Bath Feast Pavilion then you may be wondering about the chickpeas too. You can go to the fabulous Borough Market blog (I teach there too) and just add a bit of Orchard Pig cider to this recipe.