What to do with quinces?
I’m not sure when I first ever tasted quince jelly but I do remember thinking that this was truly better than sliced bread. The colour is spectacular and the flavour is deliciously subtle although hard to describe. A touch of apple and lemon with a floral twist gives you some idea.
2 years ago, we purchased a couple of quince trees from a local nursery and planted them into the Forest Garden. They’ve been a little slow to get going but this year we reaped the benefits with a fantastic harvest of around 10 kilos of this wonderful fruit.
Quince jelly was immediately on my mind and 6 kilos were soon reduced to pulp, strained, boiled with sugar and jarred up. Of course tasting the product was essential and there was no disappointment. Manchego cheese or cheddar on a biscuit with a dollop of quince jelly on top – what a combo! We sell our jams and jellies in our little on site shop and 3 jars were purchased instantly by our guests.
However, with this quantity of quince to deal with, I needed to explore how else it can be used, and what else can I make with it. When making a jelly, rather than rejecting all the pulp, you could make membrillo, a thick, firm paste, originating from Spain and part of their festive fare. Try a bit of membrillo, with chorizo and cheddar as a toasty on a winter’s day. How about Halloumi, glazed in quince jelly and grilled? Or a spiced Christmas ham with membrillo glaze? All fantastic recipes but the one that I really am excited about is Roast Parsnip, quince and caramelised onion salad.
2-3 quinces halved lengthways, cores cut away, chopped into thick slices (put into water with a squeeze of lemon juice which will stop them going brown)
500g parsnips, peeled and cut into long wedges
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp ground turmeric, plus 2 pinches
2 balls stem ginger from a jar, finely chopped, plus 4 tbsp syrup from the jar
50g whole almonds with skins
350g giant couscous
2 onions, sliced
2 preserved lemons from a jar, halved, discard the middle and seeds and diced
juice 3 lemons
small pack parsley, roughly chopped
Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6 and put a large saucepan of water on to boil. Boil the quinces for 20-25 mins until almost tender. Drain, then leave in the colander to steam- dry. Repeat with the parsnips, but only boil for 3-4 mins before draining.
Mix 2 tbsp of the oil, half the cumin seeds, the turmeric, 1 tbsp ginger syrup and some seasoning in a roasting tin. Toss in the steam-dried parsnips and quinces, & roast for 25 mins until golden, and tender. Take the veg out and tip the almonds onto a baking tray and toast for 5 mins in the oven.
Meanwhile, cook the couscous, with 2 pinches of turmeric in the water, & drain well. Slowly cook the onions in the remaining 2 tbsp oil with remaining cumin seeds until really soft and golden and just starting to caramelise.
Whisk the remaining 3 tbsp ginger syrup with the chopped ginger, chopped preserved lemons, lemon juice and plenty of seasoning. Tip the couscous, roasted vegetables, caramelised onions and chopped parsley onto a serving platter or into a big bowl. Roughly chop the toasted almonds then add them too, before drizzling over the lemon dressing. Toss everything together well and serve.
What a winner this one is and if next year our Persimmon tree, planted not far away from the Quince in the Forest Garden, develops some fruit for the first time, there’s a cheeky recipe I’ve found for Persimmon and membrillo gallette which looks amazing! Watch this space!