I LOVE quinces!
Partly because they are such an ancient fruit, partly because they are pretty hard to get hold of (they are really only around in November) which makes them a much-anticipated treat.
And then their scent is divine: a mixture of honey, musk and roses. When I am able to buy quinces, the first thing I do is fill a large bowl with them and just enjoy their colour and fragrance for a week or so.
Quinces do need quite a bit of work: their acidic, hard flesh needs to be cooked long and slowly until the pale flesh takes on a pinky hue.
Luckily, because they are so perfumed you don’t need to do anything complicated with them. Poach them like pears, only longer. Just add a splash of water and dollop of honey to peeled, cored and quartered quinces, with a pinch of cinnamon if you like.
The flavour of cooked quince is powerful enough to take on rosemary, cinnamon, cloves even star anise, bay and even saffron.
For the recipe below you want a dry-ish compote with some of the quinces poached to a pulp and some still retaining their shape so you can chop the flesh up roughly.
The frangipane quince tartlets I made are inspired by a quince Bakewell tart I spotted in Lawson’s delicatessen www.lawsonsdelicatessen.co.uk in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, a few weeks ago.
I have since also come across a recipe by Sam & Sam Clarke, chef-owners of Moro www.moro.co.uk , for Tarta de Santiago which reads like a Spanish version of the Bakewell tart made with membrillo (quince paste).
These frangipane quince tartlets are a delicious, almondy mouthfuls. Their butteriness balanced by the slightly astringent quince compote.
I find the texture very pleasing too: crunchy almonds, soft frangipane and the soft, slightly grainy texture of the quinces.
And not too much pastry which can feel like a “sandy mouthful”: the balance between filling, topping and pastry shell is just right.
The recipe below makes about 20-24 tartlets. You will 2 x 12-hole, non-stick jam-tart tins.
Make your own short crust pastry or take a short-cut. You can buy very decent ready-made pastry. Look out for “all-butter”: Dorset Pastry’s organic short crust pastry is good as is Waitrose’s own label short crust pastry sheets (no rolling out necessary).
To make frangipane quince pies for Christmas: simply replace the filling with 1/2 mince meat and 1/2 poached, very finely chopped quinces. Really delicious, much fruitier and with a more interesting texture I think, they beat traditional mince pies hands down!
This is what you need:
275g short crust pastry
100g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
25g plain flour
1 large egg
1 tbsp brandy
chopped, poached, cooled flesh of about 3-4 medium quinces (see above)
4 tbsp flaked, toasted almonds
icing sugar to dust
This is what you do:
- pre-heat the oven to 180C
- roll out the pasty on a very lightly floured surface until quite thin
- using a pastry cutter (or glass/cup) cut out thin rounds marginally larger than the holes in the baking tin
- press a round very gently into each hole then put the tins in the fridge for 30 minutes; this helps to “relax” the pastry and stops it from shrinking in the oven
- for the frangipane, beat together the butter and sugar until pale, then gradually add the ground almonds, mix in the flour, followed by the egg and finally the brandy
- 3/4 fill the pasty cases with poached quince; I find this easiest with two teaspoons where I use one spoon to scoop up the quince and the other to scrape the fruit into the pasty case
- spoon a heaped teaspoon of frangipane over the top of each one
- sprinkle with the toasted, flaked almonds
- bake for 25 minutes until slightly puffed and golden brown
- cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then remove and finish cooling on a wire rack
- dust with icing sugar before serving if you like
Enjoy – really good in the afternoon with a strong cup of Oolong tea or glass of chilled sweet wine!