Dining on mince and slices of quince….

quince botanicalThe quince carries associations of medieval times and walled gardens which I find very intriguing. The fruit tree itself is sufficiently ornamental to make it a tempting choice for the garden. Spring’s prettiest pink and white blossom is followed in late summer by large hard yellow fruit, with a strong pineappley fragrance.

Usually when I have encountered quince, it has been in the form of neat little pottles of solid fruit paste. Quince paste is a lovely choice served with a sharp cheddar or a tangy blue. Dark apricot in colour, it has the sweetness and grittiness of a pear with a slightly more perfumed flavour.

Quince isn’t widely sold commercially, but I spotted a basket of pretty pale lemon quince for $5/kg at my neighbourhood fruit and veg shop and I was tempted to try a little something new.

Paris based cook and my go-to dessert guy David Lebovitz has a good recipe here and a gorgeously rustic quince tarte tatin recipe here . He also found that a lovely waste-not-want-not ruby red quince jelly emerges from reducing the poaching liquid, as quince is very high in the preserver’s best friend, pectin.

I discovered that raw, the fruit is far too hard and tart to eat.  In Turkey, the expression ayvayı yemek (literally “eat the quince”) means a bitter taste in the mouth or unpleasant situation to avoid. But peeled, cored and cut into sections quince can be poached slowly and at length in a sugar syrup with the spice of your choice, vanilla, cinnamon, star anise. The flesh is pale yellow to begin with, and develops a rich pink hue over cooking.

For my first foray into quince cookery, I poached three sliced quinces in a syrup made with brown sugar syrup and a sliced vanilla bean. Aside from the slight trickiness in peeling, cutting and coring such a hard fruit, it really was as easy as stewing apples. The amazing fragrance coming from the kitchen had all family members sitting up and taking notice.

Poached quince makes a delicious dessert with vanilla ice cream, crème fraiche or Greek yoghurt.  In the unlikely event that you have leftovers, it will make or a particularly decadent breakfast fruit with muesli.

Now, I’m starting to wonder where I could make room in my garden for a quince.

Botanical Image credit Wikipedia, artist Philip Miller

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Is this the way to tamarillo?: 100 Day Project #6

Tamarillo‘Is this the way to Amarillo, every night I’ve been hugging my pillow…’

I can’t help it.  Every time I see a tamarillo, or ‘tree tomato’ as they used to be known, in comes this terrible retro “Amarilloearworm, (or this even more tasteless version, featuring several stars who should have known better on many levels).

Turns out my subconscious may not be completely nuts, as the ‘amarillo’ part may well be related to the Spanish for yellow (for which the Texas town Amarillo is named), as these fruit come in a lovely yolky gold  as well as the more familiar jewel red.

The flavour is quite distinctive, tangy and strong.   As children we often ate tamarillos stewed, with icecream, custard or porridge.  The strong deep red juice made for a technicolour experience in the bowl, on clothes, on the floor… Some simply sccop them out with a spoon, but I’d probably need a wee sprinkle of sugar on the cut fruit first.

Nowadays we are more likely to eat them in a fruit crumble.  I tend to use any old recipe, or not even bother with a recipe. But just lately I have been flinging in a handful of coconut into the topping to create a slightly deeper, nuttier flavour.  ‘Dilute’ the tamarillos with stewed apple for the new or picky palate.

As a bonus, these lovelies are just coming into season now which means a very reasonable price of $3.85 per kilo at our local supermarket.  Better eating everyone!

Of course a cheaper and fresher way to eat them is simply to grow them.  And luckily,  the tamarillo is really simple and very rewarding, even for novice gardeners.  It’s a fast-growing, leggy tree with big tobacco-like leaves which would made a fetching addition to your little food forest or garden. The only issue with them is they don’t tend to be that long lived, so for a constant supply we are advised to plant a new tree every 2-4 years.  A price well worth paying in my opinion.

I’m off to Kings garden centre to walk the homegrown tamarillo talk.

And it appears that earworm is coming with me…