Autumn Labours

When we were based more permanently in Spain, one of the few occasions that Big Man and I  worked together in the kitchen was for the autumn making of Quince Jelly. Practically everyone round our way over there has a couple of Quince trees and come mid October for about six weeks, we were inundated with offers of bags of Quince.

They’re a funny sort of fruit, looking like over sized pears, smelling sweetly perfumed, tasting sour and dreadful if you bite into a raw one, heavenly after cooking gently with plenty of sugar or honey.

IMG_20171019_123652

We were walking through Bexhill town centre this morning, where we’re blessed still with small independent traders selling fish, meat, fruit and veg, making curtains, looking after our teeth and eyes and selling us clothes and gifts. Big Man suddenly stopped in his tracks causing a bit of a pile up with me and the two dogs bundling into him, and was sniffing the air like a police tracker dog. “Can you smell that?” he asked excitedly.  Nope…nothing was jumping out at me but I’m recovering from a cold, so hardly surprising.  “Quince, I can smell Quince,  and they must be good if they smell so wonderful”.

IMG_20171019_130022

We reversed back up the road a few metres and outside the fruit and veg shop the marvellous sight of a small crate of smooth skinned, golden yellow Quince awaited us. Needless to say,  we snapped them all up (just over 4kgs in total) which the lady in the shop was intrigued by as she didn’t know what they were and was curious to know what we were going to do with them.

We eventually got home lugging our 4kgs of Quince,  a 5kg bag of sugar (we didn’t need that much but it was a bargain) two confused dogs and several library books.

 

IMG_20171019_125115

Big Man got straight to work chopping and less than two and half hours later we were done, we’ve got it down to a fine art now. We were sustained during our labours by a very large gin and tonic. He’d bought me back a bottle of Gin Mare  (a new one to us) from duty free, flavoured with olive, thyme, rosemary and basil. Absolutely delicious but very strong!

IMG_20171019_142334

Tomorrow we’re going to take a little tub of our Quince jelly, or dulce de membrillo to the lady in the shop so that she can try it with some cheese. Hopefully she’ll enjoy it as much as we do and if you’d like to give it a go, follow this link for the recipe which can be scaled down easily, or you could make this delicious crumble, or this incredible savoury lamb dish.

Advertisements

Lamb with Quince, Pomegranate and Coriander

The 6th January is the Feast of Epiphany, celebrating the arrival of the Three Kings to Bethlehem. In Spain el Día De Los Reyes is a feast Day, and widely anticipated and celebrated by young and old. Traditionally a Roscón de Reyes (a Cake of Kings) is made. Check out my recipe from last year here, or Giovanna´s beautiful creation here.

Although we´re currently in England, we weren´t going to let a celebration pass us by, and the opportunity to celebrate it with best friends and parents was too good to miss.

Lamb with Quince (1)

We may have had to eat off a folding table in a half decorated room with mismatched plates from charity shops, but we were going to eat well.

We started with Jamon y Queso (Ham & Cheese) and Habas con Jamon (Broad Beans with Ham) and a delicious Brandada. Check out Mad Dog´s fantastic post all about this Catalan delicacy.

Our main course was inspired by my Christmas present from Big Man, the beautiful book Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi. We had bought a couple of quince back from Spain with us, although I didn´t have quite enough so added in chunks of butternut squash (Ottolenghi recommends pear) which worked really well.  Below is how I cooked the recipe with the original recipe also shown.

Ingredients (serves 4 as a main course)

  • 400g minced lamb
  • 1 garlic clove crushed
  • 1 red chili, chopped (I used 1 tsp hot pimentón)
  • 20g chopped coriander plus 2tbsp to garnish
  • 50g breadcrumbs
  • 1tsp allspice
  • 2 tbsp finely grated ginger
  • 2 medium onions peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 medium free range egg
  • 4 quince (1.3kg in total) I used 2 quince and a small butternut squash
  • ½ lemon squeezed plus 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 cardamom pods
  • 2 tsp pomegranate molasses (I couldn´t find this so used honey plus the juice of an extra half a lemon)
  • 2 tsp sugar (I left this out)
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • Seeds of ½ pomegranate
  • Salt and black pepper

Place the lamb in a bowl with the garlic, chili, coriander, breadcrumbs, allspice, half the ginger, half the onion, egg and seasoning. Mix with your hands and then form small meatballs. The original recipe suggests stuffing halves of quince, Believe me, this is very hard work as quince are very hard to peel and chop, so I went with his other suggestion to chop the quince and cook with the lamb meatballs.

Lamb with Quince (2)

Peel and chop the quince/squash into large chunks and finely chop about a quarter of the chunks. Leave the larger pieces in a pot of water with the juice of half a lemon to stop the quince turning too brown. Or don´t bother – it will still look and taste good when cooked!

Heat the oil and add the finely chopped quince/squash, onions, ginger and cardamom pods. Cook (covered) until softened then add the molasses and lemon juice (or honey and lemon juice), sugar (if using), stock and seasoning. Now add the quince/squash and meatballs and cook gently for about an hour (covered) or until the fruit is soft. Remove the lid and turn up the heat and cook for a further few minutes until the sauce is thick and pulpy, check for seasoning and sprinkle with the pomegranate and fresh coriander before serving. I also added an extra squeeze of lemon juice.

Tastes even better if made the day before (just don´t add the coriander and pomegranate). I served it with basmati rice into which I stirred browned onions and cumin seeds (toasted and crushed with a pestle and mortar).

Fruit Platter (1)

Phew – a lovely meal with friends which was rounded off with singing and dancing (of the silly variety), Roscón and a fruit platter which went some way to convincing us that we hadn´t consumed any calories at all over Christmas and New Year.

Autumn Quince and Apple Crumble

You have probably noticed that there are not so many dessert recipes on my blog. There are several reasons for this.  First of all, I don´t really have a sweet tooth, and as I´m the cook in this house, if you want sweet, there´s always chocolate in the larder!  Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, Big Man and I do need to be a bit sensible about the calories – so dessert is a special treat for us rather than an everyday occurrence.  Finally, Spain doesn´t really have a culture of home made desserts.  Yes, we have our Flan (Crême Caramel), Arroz con Leche (Rice Pudding) and Natillas (Cold Custard) but mostly it´s a piece of fruit to finish the meal. As we are able to get hold of such delicious seasonal fruit, that´s mainly what we eat and enjoy.

Having said that, quince are now in season, and we´ve made our annual supply of Quince Jelly or Carne de Membrillo. Our kindly neighbour is still providing us with a couple of quince (or is that quinces?) as the last few ripen and a nearby village has some delicious sweet, crunchy apples…which make a lovely change from the usual inspid, spongey monsters that are typically available to us.

Sunday lunch recently, after a hard morning´s work on the house and garden, most definitely warranted a delicious dessert and I must have been feeling nostalgic for England.  I decided to make a delicious autumnal crumble with quince and apple and to serve it with hot creamy custard.

Ingredients

  • 1 large quince peeled and chopped (or one large sour cooking apple)
  • ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons of honey and 1 tablespoon of water

Put the above ingredients into a saucepan with a lid and simmer until soft and all the liquid has evaporated

Peel and slice two large apples and stir into the cooked quince and sprinkle over 1 teaspoon of mixed spice.  If you like your desserts sweet, add brown sugar to taste.

For the crumble

  • One cup of plain flour, half a cup of oats, 100g grams of grated chilled butter and half a cup of brown sugar.

Put all the above ingredients into a food processor and blitz for a few seconds until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. You can also do this by hand.

Put the fruit mixture into a pie dish, cover with the crumble topping and bake on high for about 30-40 minutes until slightly browned on top.  Some of the fruit mixture is likely to bubble out and caramelize, so I recommend putting your pie dish onto a baking tray lined with foil.

Serve with custard and fight your nearest and dearest for the crispy caramelized bits.  Serves four.  ¡Buen provecho!

Dulce de Membrillo – Quince Jelly

The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.

The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are, you are, you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are.”
Pussy said to the Owl “You elegant fowl,
How charmingly sweet you sing.
O let us be married, too long we have tarried;
But what shall we do for a ring?”

They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows,
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose, his nose, his nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.
“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling your ring?”
Said the Piggy, “I will”
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.

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, the moon, the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon

I couldn´t resist quoting the above “nonsense” poem by Edward Lear – after all, how much poetry mentions the beautiful quince?  Aah…such silly romantic nonsense.

Actually, making quince jelly in our house is one of the few cooking adventures we undertake together, so there is a small element of romance to it!  Chopping up a quince is quite tough – fine if you´re only doing one or two, but every year we usually make a huge batch of Carne or Dulce de Membrillo in one go and it takes 3 or four hours. Much easier if there are two of you working together.  I know that autumn is really here, and in fact today was dull, grey and wet, so it was perfect for steaming up the kitchen with beautiful smells.

Making quince jelly is not difficult.  You just need a little patience, a big pot and a sharp knife.  You´ll be rewarded with beautiful jewel coloured jelly which will last for months if kept in the fridge or a cold place and it can be eaten with cheese and hams or on its own as a delicious sugary treat.

Even if you only have one or two quinces, do give this a go as they are very tart unless lots of sugar is added (but also very nice baked with honey, sugar and raisins as a dessert).

For every kilo of prepared fruit, you will need 750g of sugar.  And that´s it, ingredient list over.

Wash the fruit and get prepared with scales, knives, chopping boards and your pot.

Cut into halves, quarters and even eighths if you have small hands to make it easier.

Core and chop into chunks.  I recommend weighing as you go along.

Put the quince into your biggest pot and add the sugar.

This is where the slightly hard work and patience comes in.  Start on the lowest heat and keep turning the quince and sugar with a wooden spoon.  You don´t want them to catch on the bottom of the pot while the sugar is dissolving as this will give your jelly a burnt taste.

Dissolve the sugar slowly (and if anything does burn, just remove the offending chunk).

Once the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat and bubble gently until the quince has turned mushy and amber coloured. We had two pots of 5 and 3 kg of fruit plus sugar and they took about 30 minutes each from starting to bubble.

Just a bit longer now.

Now remove from the heat and leave to cool for about 10 minutes then blend with a stick blender or mash then pass through a mouli.

Pour into shallow plastic tubs, cover with a cloth until cool and solid then put the lids on.

Store in the fridge until you are ready to enjoy with cheese, nuts, and whatever takes your fancy.  Port, dessert wines and also a good red wine work well I find!