October Fool, a tangy quince dessert.
Quince it the quintessential October fruit. Its tough, its inedible when raw, it drys your mouth out like nothing on earth, its difficult to manage but, when cooked, it rewards you in spades with its layers and layers of flavour.
This year, in September, in the nick of time for an important lunch I was cooking for, I found a bush that I had never spotted before, planted at some point no doubt, but it had gone completely wild.
This tiny, beautiful, bright yellow fruit was growing on a quince like bush, with quince like leaves and unmistakable quince like seeds but unlike the quince I usually gather which are much larger, look like apples and grow nearby.
I picked a small basket full and sent a hurried email with lots of photos to a gardener friend who’s sister is a “quince expert”. Once I got assurance that this fruit was in fact quince and not poisonousness I knew I had the the wild fruit dessert inspiration I was looking for.
I cannot tell you what the lunch party was about yet or who I might have been endangering but it will come out in time.
I left them in the back kitchen overnight and I arrived down the following day for my morning cup of tea to the most amazing honey like smell throughout the house. It took me a few moments to gather my thoughts and identify the source. It’s not what you would expect from such a tough, bitter little fruit, it was glorious. I got to work immediately, I just had to see what they would bring.
Peeling them was a nightmare and trying to core them almost impossible, I couldn’t get the white pithy core out at all so I cut them into quarters and roasted them as they were, with lots of sugar, a vanilla pod and a tiny bit of lemon zest.
Within about 15 to 20 minutes they had softened a little more than expected, had a glorious smell and had turned a kind of transparent yellow. They looked good enough to eat! I ran them through a sieve to get rid of the pith and was left with a sunshine yellow purée, it was different, tangy and delicious.
I used the purée in a galette with wild blackberries to huge success.
It is now October, the blackberries are gone and I am on to the other quince, that grew nearby which have now ripened and are, easier to deal with, equally delicious but not quite as exciting as the new discovery.
The kids and I were watching the Argentina beat Ireland in the world cup quarter finals last Sunday, they needed a little fresh air during the half time break so we went out and quickly picked a basket full of quince. When we got back play had resumed and Ireland had scored a try and had a few more points on the board, things were looking up.Of course as we settled in to watch again, things went down hill, they always lose when I watch!
I usually make quince paste / membrillo with these which is delicious eaten with cheese but I wanted to do something different, so the kids and I worked on a couple of recipes ie, I worked, they tasted, but any thing to get the kids in the kitchen is a plus. This was our absolute favourite.
Roasted Quince Purée
Can be be done in advance
Preheat the oven to 180C
6 medium quince
zest of ½ lemon
1 vanilla bean
4 tbsp water
Peel the quince, cut into quarters, and core as best as possible.
Place the quince in a roasting tray, cover with the sugar, water and lemon zest. Split the vanilla bean in half, length ways and add.
Cover with foil and cook in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until soft.
Pass the quince through a sieve to purée, this also removed the pith and any seeds that remain.
Taste for sweetness, quince can vary in tartness, it should be sweet but tangy. Add a little icing sugar if too tart.
Refrigerate when cooled until completely cold.
Makes about 30
Preheat oven to 180C
250g self raising flour
1 tsp nutmeg
Place the hazelnuts on a roasting tray and roast for about 10 minutes. Remove to a tea towel and rub the skins off, if there are any stubborn skins that will not rub away just leave them.
Chop the nuts roughly
In a food processor, blitz ¼ of the nuts to a fine grind.
Put the flour, sugar, nutmeg and ground nuts in the bowl of a mixer and mix the dry ingredients together well.
Add the eggs one by one, then add the chopped hazelnuts and raisins.
Allow it to come together then knock out on to a slightly floured surface.
Split the dough in half. Roll each piece into a log and then flatten in a rectangle to about ½ inch in thickness. Chill in the fridge for about 15 minutes.
Line a baking tray with parchment.
Slice the dough into ½ inch pieces and place on a baking tray.
Cook on a middle shelf in the oven for about 15 minutes or until crunchy.
1 Large table spoon of crème fraiche
Chilled quince purée from above (or about 6 large tbsp)
2 drops Vanilla extract
Whip the cream to soft peaks
Fold in crème fraiche, sugar and vanilla. Do not over mix.
Fold in chilled quince purée but not completely, there should be some swirls of the purée.
Fill into 6-8 small glasses and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Serve with biscotti, you will have some left over but they last well and are great with coffee.