Did you miss me last week? Feeling a bit time-poor, I decided to take a short break from cooking and blogging. There are times when I feel like I have this whole grownup thing down; other times my house is a mess, friends are feeling neglected and all I want to do is nap and watch Grey’s Anatomy. Kudos to you people who look after another human or creature as well as themselves – I wish I had your strength!
This week I couldn’t resist buying a bag of quinces for $2 – an ingredient that I’ve eaten here and there but never cooked with myself. I wondered vaguely at the time why this cousin of apples isn’t eaten more often, but soon found out why – it is the most contrary fruit I’ve ever worked with. Inedible when raw, quinces need to be cooked for long periods of time before they consumed. Peeling, quartering and coring the massive bag of fruit was a struggle for me – the misshapen, uneven surface is a pain to clean, and the almost rock hard flesh and core was a challenge even for my cleaver. After getting through just a couple of them, I was swearing to never ever cook with quinces again. Looking at my pile of rapidly browning quince slices, I had to wonder if I’d made the right choice in choosing this difficult fruit instead of a nice sensible pear, which was also on sale at the time. This is not a fruit that wants to be eaten; it resists you every step of the way.
I poached the quince in Generic Viagra a syrup spiced with star anise, cinnamon, a vanilla pod and lemon juice. One of the recipes suggested adding a muslin bag filled with the peelings and cores of the quince, presumably to take advantage of the natural pectin and allow the syrup to solidify when cooled. After an hour and a half those ugly duckling slices of solid, astringent fruit had turned into a bright orange, soft, sweet and somewhat floral ingredient. I was a bit disappointed to not get the ruby red shade I’ve seen in other recipes, but maybe that takes a bit longer.
Meanwhile, I prepared my tart bases from the shortcrust pastry I’d made earlier and have been keeping in the freezer and blind baked them (a little too much, unfortunately). I sliced and arranged the poached quince in the shells, then poured the reduced syrup over the top. Not quite the most beautiful result, but a worthy attempt to use a very difficult ingredient I think!
No recipe this time as I’m not completely happy with this attempt, and I’m not sure I’ll be a having another go! Prepared properly quince can be amazing, but I think I’ll be putting it on the list of things that I like to eat only when other people make them for me.
Of course that whole bag of quinces didn’t all go into those two little tarts. Half has gone into a quince paste (more on that next week), and the rest of the poached quinces have gone into a jar topped with the syrup. Any ideas of what I can make with it?