Quince Paste and Memories of Spain

on Food  

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Confession: I didn’t actually cook anything this weekend, as my right wrist has been acting up lately and it seemed wise to not push it too much. Thankfully whilst making last weekend’s quince tarts I used the rest of the quince to make membrillo, quince paste. In our travels through Europe over a year ago, we were served mebrillo with manchego (a sheeps milk cheese) and walnuts whilst in Spain, so with these leftover quinces I decided to recreate that beautiful end to a beautiful meal.

As I mentioned last week, the quinces really tried my patience and I’m not sure that I’d bother with them again, unless it just happens that I managed to get a particularly difficult to work with lot. Following this recipe from Always Order Dessert, I poached the rest of my quinces in water for an hour before blitzing them with a stick mixer. A this point the mixture was not looking particularly attractive, and I was not feeling very good about quinces. Thankfully it seems that this is how it’s supposed to look.

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I returned the quince puree to the saucepan with an equal amount of sugar, some lemon juice and a scraped vanilla pod to boil and thicken. I was quite skeptical of how this brown sludge would turn into a thick ruby red jelly, especially given my past experiences with jellies not setting, but after a couple more hours of boiling with occasional stirring, the mixture darkened and thickened due to the natural pectin content of the fruit. Recipes I’d looked at suggest boiling the mixture for a few hours (?!), but after seeing it start to burn at the bottom and seeing how thick it was getting I decided to pour it into a small ceramic tray after just two. Feeling thoroughly exhausted and tired of cooking by this point (as I was multi-tasking with the tarts), I completely forgot to line or oil the tray, and resigned myself to having to just scoop it out.

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However, it seems luck was on my side – after leaving it to set overnight, cutting around the edges and gently lifting with a spatula, it lifted up beautifully!

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It’s interesting how food can bring up memories – this dish reminds me of the dinner we had at a sidreria in San Sebastian where it came at the end of a traditional three course meal. The walnuts remind me of being shown how to crack them with your hands by a fellow traveller in Munich, as well as eating them with a wine tasting in Tasmania.

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My quince paste is a bit on the grainy side as I wasn’t fastidious enough in removing the tough cores of quinces (I tried to push the puree through a sieve, but it was having none of it), but the sweet, floral and fruity flavour is still a perfect compliment for the hard manchego cheese.

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I decided to take photos in our courtyard today as a change from my kitchen benches, but opted to head back inside to enjoy the cheese with a beer in the comfort of our air-conditioning! Perth is late to the party with autumn as always. I don’t take advantage of our outdoor nearly enough, so I have my fingers crossed for nice (but not too hot) weather over the Easter long weekend.

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I’m not so sure I’d go through the effort of making quince paste again, but now I have more than enough to last me a good while – apparently it can last about a year if stored correctly. Now to find some more cheeses to pair it with…

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