The Quince.jpg

The Quince

By: ELOISE WALTON

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Eloise Walton is a graduate from Bristol University with a degree in Archaeology and Geology. She moved to the Algarve in 2005 and came to work for the Resident as a journalist early last year.

THE QUINCE season is upon us, and with so many growing around the Algarve countryside, it’s a wonder this versatile and perfumed fruit is not more popular.

Although related to apples and pears, most varieties of quince, which when ripe look like furry yellow pears, cannot be eaten raw, which could be why they are neglected and left unpicked.

Traditionally, quinces are used to make jam, jelly and quince pudding, with the British term ‘marmalade’ originally meaning quince jam, deriving from the Portuguese name for this fruit, marmelo.

This fruit can, however, also be roasted, baked or stewed and is ideal for sweet and savoury recipes, with the flesh of the fruit turning red during the cooking process.

Quinces can also be added in small amounts to enhance the flavour of apple pies, jams and sauces as well as being used to make wines and flavoured spirits.

SPICED LAMB WITH QUINCE

A tagine of sorts, the quince marries well with this gently spiced sauce. It’s worth investing in freshly ground spices to produce a much more aromatic flavour instead of using powders that have been kept in the cupboard for too long.

Ingredients

1 leg of lamb trimmed of fat

50g butter

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp allspice

1 cinnamon stick

1 tbsp ground cumin

10 cardamom pods, crushed

1 onions, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, sliced

salt and pepper

peel of one orange

2 cups of water or chicken stock

2 quinces cooked until soft and red with 2 cups water, 1 cup sugar, juice of 1 lemon and 1 tsp cardamom pods.

Method

Cut lamb into small cubes of about 3cm. In a large, heavy-based pot gently cook the onions and garlic in oil and butter until soft and golden. Turn up the heat, add the lamb and cook for 10-15 minutes, seasoning well, until the liquid has mostly reduced.

Add the spices and orange zest and cook for a few minutes.

Add just enough water or chicken stock to cover the lamb. Lower the heat and simmer, partly covered, until the lamb is soft (around 45 minutes).

Add the quinces and allow to cool slightly before serving with a rice pilaf.

QUINCE BRANDY

A jar of this perfumed amber nectar will warm any guest during the winter season. It complements mince pies beautifully and a jar could even be wrapped up to offer as a home-made Christmas gift.

Ingredients

4-6 quinces

4 bottles of cheap brandy (or as needed to fill the jars)

4 small cinnamon sticks

4 star anise

1x 5 litre jar

Method

Wipe the quinces clean, then cut and quarter them whole, leaving the skin and seeds intact. Arrange the fruit in the jar and fill with the brandy, before arranging the spices in the liquid and closing the lid. Leave to mature for at least six weeks before drinking.

QUINCE CHEESE

In fact, this is not a cheese at all, it’s a thick dark amber coloured jam also known as ‘membrillo’ that is often served at the end of a meal as a heavy, sweet contrast to crumbly salty cheeses.

Once made, quince cheese lasts for a long time in the fridge. It can be preserved in jars and spooned out or made in pretty moulds and kept in greaseproof paper and tin foil.

Ingredients

1.5kg quinces

1 lemon

Granulated sugar (see below for measurements)

Water

Method

Peel the quinces, remove the core and cut into chunks. Put the pieces in a large saucepan, cover with water and allow to simmer very gently with the lid on for around three hours until the fruit is soft and pink.

Drain the fruit and weigh it before measuring an equal weight of sugar. Put the quince pieces in the food processor and blitz until it becomes a paste, then combine the paste with the sugar and the juice and zest of the lemon in a thick bottomed saucepan.

Simmer over a low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved into the quince paste. Continue to simmer gently without a lid, stirring at regular intervals for around two hours, until the paste is thick and a deep red-brown colour.

Spoon the quince cheese into sterilised jars and cover the top with a waxed disc before you put the lid on. The jars will need to be refrigerated once opened.