Quinces – not really attractive to look at are they? Sort of the fatter, uglier sister of the pear. They are one of those old fashioned fruits that play hard to get, they cannot be eaten raw but will reward a patient cook. Their true flavour is only revealed in the kitchen, yet powerful unique fragrance of quince is detectable either fresh or being cooked.
Maggie Beer may have recently restored the quince to our culinary consciousness with her famous paste, but these “golden apples” have figured prominently in classic legends since ancient times:
- They are thought to be the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden,
- Paris gave one to Aphrodite
- Venus is often depicted with a quince in her right hand
- Sacred to the Greeks and Romans, the fruit is regarded as the symbol of love and happiness
- The eleventh labour of Hercules was to return with golden apples
- Even “The Owl and the Pussycat”¹ got in on the act;
They dined on mince and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand on the edge of the sand
They danced by the light of the moon.
Now that winter has really dug it’s heels in, café breakfast menus are full of warming of winter dishes and it seems that every local blogger I follow has been espousing the delights of porridge. I have never liked porridge but thought if it was topped with some slowly poached quince I might be convinced.
The whole fruit needs to be peeled and cut into large pieces with the hard core removed then slowly simmered in water for several hours (I let mine go for 3 hours which was perhaps too long) until it becomes soft and changes colour to a ruby red. The slower and longer it cooks the stronger the colour. To my poaching water I added vanilla bean, cinnamon quill and some caster sugar. Allow the quince to cool in the poaching liquid which by now should be a lovely syrup. Then try it with porridge.
Hmm. Still seems a lot like a bowl of wallpaper paste to me. It will take more than a runcible spoon to get me wanting more. I am far more inspired to do some papier mâché than dig in and eat. The quince is good though, I am only able to struggle through a few mouthfuls if they are more quince than porridge. All is not lost though. The Beloved is fond of his porridge and thinks having poached quince for it is a grand idea.
¹by Edward Lear