Archives for posts with tag: quince

QuinceQuick! For those of you in New Zealand/southern hemisphere find some quince before winter truly takes hold. Make quince paste, jam or jelly, scrub the furry fruit, cut, roast and boil away, stock up for a whole winter of cheese boards. If you are like me at the moment this leap into action, this leap into the kitchen will be just the thing to anchor everything in place.

QuinceQuince and avocadoIt’s been busy around here: assignments, uni club, assignments, an internship, fundraising sausage sizzle, more assignments and occasionally I have found time to work for actual money which is nice, because you know, the rent doesn’t pay itself. And amongst all the writing about historical print journalism, the political economy of modern news media, the role of a copy-editor and the rules of punctuation, I have helped on photography shoots, defrosted a 5cm wall of ice from my freezer, listened on repeat to an eclectic playlist – Bruce Springsteen, Macklemore, Angus and Julia Stone, the Beach House, Fleetwood Mac.

I’ve had a freezing weekend away in Christchurch, and have been reading up on HTML code, because now seems as good a time as any to become a code geek. I have been reading short stories and essays by and on Katherine Mansfield and I have been devouring anything written by Joan Didion, and God could these women write! I have eaten more kebabs, pizza slices and take-out sushi in the past couple of weeks than I’d like to admit and between our flat and Georgie being at home in Wellington for over a week, I have shared more bottles of wine than I’d like to admit.

quince bathscrubbed quinceWhat I’m leading up to here is that the days have been full and apart from the people and the wine and the great literature I am growing tired of this year. My parents commented the other day about how fast the year is going, can we believe we are a third through 2013 already? I said quite loudly and with a melodramatic exhale of breath, “Thank God!” I feel quite indifferent to the routines of going to class, sitting in a lecture hall, moving from one computer desk to another, moving from one essay writing assignment to another. These feelings are not new or particular to only myself – I think all students feel this as uni wraps up and new projects seem within reach.

roasted and wrinkledpulled apartUnfortunately these feelings of indifference have weedled their way into the kitchen, hence the take-out sushi, kebabs and pizza. But food – good food, real food – has an ability to make us take notice. I’ve written this before, of food’s power to redirect our attention and our priorities.

Avocado and oilavocado, fig, bookAutumn produce has been worthy of attention. Fresh figs, feijoas, quince, the most crisp, tart cooking apples and sweet, juicy eating apples. Local pears, the flesh the softest I have ever eaten and new golden kiwifruit, rich and mellow, quite different to their acidic, green cousins. The last of my summer tomatoes – green and peppery, and four of the most beautiful avocados, so oily and rich, from the tree at the olive grove. In the northern hemisphere people are heralding the arrival of spring produce in all its green glory, but I think we simply like the change in seasons, the chance to honour something new.

avocado in halfgreen tomato and avocadoThis autumn quince proved to be most interesting to cook with. It seems I haven’t learned that raw quince is very sour and shouldn’t be consumed in its raw state, no matter how fragrant it smells or buttercup yellow it is. But cooked into a thick, dark pink paste the quince becomes sweet, the fragrance intensifies, like roses and apples. My kitchen smelled wonderful. Quince paste is a relatively time consuming task but on the day I made it there seemed to be nothing more remedial than standing at the bench peeling the skins from the roasted fruit or stirring gently at the stove.

ready to setQuince pasteQuince and cheesePerrin gave me the quince, passed on to him from a kindly fruit and vegetable shop owner up the road. The figs, scavenged from my neighbour’s tree (who perhaps does not realise figs are $22/kg, never picks them and let’s them ripen for the birds) were eaten in greedy, mischievous lust, ripped open to expose their pink beaded insides. While I stood in my kitchen stirring fruit paste I began to think about scavenged fruit, free fruit and reasons why it seems to feel special, treasured, honoured. Can we appreciate the downy skins of a quince or the crispness of an apple or the spurting juicy seeds of a tomato more when they come from somewhere we know? I don’t mean the supermarket we know, but if we can put a face, a place, a time, a field or a road to food I’m sure it’s likely to be more significant to the consumer and treated with all the respect it deserves.

So these are thoughts that occupy my mind at the moment – an argument for local, community eating. These thoughts and days spent at the stove are valuable and interesting. I make room for them, prioritise them, amongst everything else.

Lois Daish’s Quince Paste (Penny Porritt’s Quince Paste)

I love my Lois Daish book. Every time I look through it I vow to make a blog project out of it – to cook my way through the year with Lois Daish. As for Penny Porritt, I believe she was a Listener columnist at some point, but anyway Daish’s recipe comes from her.

Take your quince and scrub gently to remove the down. Place the whole fruit in a casserole pot or roasting dish and pour over 1/2 cup of water. Cover with a lid or tightly wrapped tin foil and bake at 150°C for 2-3 hours (closer to 3, I would say) until the fruit is pink and tender. Remove from the oven and when cool enough to handle, scrape off the skins, cut each quince in half and pull out the core.

Weigh the fruit and then purée in a blender or pass through a mouli. Place the pulp in a pot and measure out enough sugar to equal 3/4 the weight of the prepared quince. Add to the pan of purée and heat gently, stirring occasionally. Cook gently for about 45 minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. The paste is ready when it is so thick that you can drag a wooden spoon through the mix and still see the bottom of the pot.

Lightly oil a shallow heatproof container – I used a similar sized dish that I would make a brownie or slice in. Cool the quince paste for a few minutes and then scrape into the dish. Smooth the top and put somewhere warm and dry for a day or two (I left it in my switched off oven). Once dried out, cut the paste into blocks, wrap in baking paper and store in a plastic container in the fridge.

I went to the market on Sunday. It was one of those clear crisp Autumn days and the market was bustling with people. I bought quince, courgette, green beans, a leek, purple kumara, fuscia pink radishes and palm sized flat mushrooms. I overheard a french couple debating the merits of the leeks they had in their market bag: were they white enough? Oui. No, but pour la soupe, they must be very white. It made me smile.

At home on our kitchen bench was a bag of beautiful, soft, deeply purple figs; two bags of the most fragrant feijoas and five large round and squat sturmer apples. “The best cooking apples,” my mother said, “lip puckeringly, eye wateringly, back molar stingingly sour when eaten raw, but they cook up into sweet apple clouds.” I like that.

I haven’t really wanted to cook recently. Nor have I needed to. I have spent lots of time at home with my family in the past few weeks. When everyone is on holiday home is such a lovely place to be. My mother cooks, I read the recipes, we set the table, pour wine and enjoy a meal together. It is not very often there are four people around our table these days.

A return to my normal schedule left me feeling rather uninspired in the kitchen. All I needed though were some interesting ingredients, something a little out of the ordinary to make me sit up and take notice. I didn’t need to cook anything particularly outstanding, the ingredients would speak for themselves. I simply wanted some time to reacquaint myself with my own kitchen.

On Monday night I made a red and green vegetable soup using the bitter greens from radish and beetroot and spinach from our garden. The beetroot stalks turned the broth a milky mauve colour. It is quite an ugly soup, more of a vegetable stew really, so all is forgiven for being ugly. I imagine it would be great slumped over some brown rice, or even with a poached egg nestled among the strips of wilted greens.

On Tuesday morning I stewed the two sturmer apples and a quince. Quince is a surprisingly solid fruit. The canary yellow and downy skin could fool you into thinking it is soft and delicate. But the skin is tough and inside it is grainy and crisp. It smells almost tropical, like hot fermented fruit. That sweet tropical tang lasts when stewing. And the apples! My mother was right, apple clouds. I left the quince and apples to stew and after fifteen minutes I opened the pot lid to see puffs of pale apple, not unlike the look of crushed ice. Today, I have been snacking on cinnamon and vanilla french toast with thick unsweetened yoghurt and spoonfuls of stewed apples and quince.

On Wednesday afternoon my mother made Fig and Almond Tart: wonderfully crisp and buttery pastry with a sweet almond filling and fig halves, cut side up. The almond filling rose around the figs, holding the juices in their frond-like interior.

Happy Eating everybody!