Last week I was the lucky recipient of three fresh Tasmanian quince from Tasmania Fresh.
These look a little like nashi pears but should not be eaten raw as they are slightly better.
Aside from eating them as slices "with a runcible spoon" as per Edward Lear's poem "The Owl and the Pussycat", I set about making their most canonical dish: quince paste, or more commonly known in Spain as membrillo, and typically served as an accompaniement to hard cheese such as Manchego.
This is an easy recipe but requires a few steps over several hours. It's best served for a rainy day therefore when you are at home all day and can thoroughly appreciate the sweet smells of jam radiating from your kitchen.
What you need:
Approx. 1 pint of caster sugar (why I say pint will become clear later!)
1 vanilla pod or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
Butter to grease
Cellophane wrap and ribbon to tie into gifts!
Peel, core and dice your quince then quickly submerge them into a pan of water before they oxidise.
Simmer them for around an hour until tender.
Remove the quince from the water and puree until smooth.
Now measure what volume of quince puree you have and match it with the same amount of caster sugar. I had around 1 pint of each. Add the inside of one vanilla pod or the essence.
Now preheat the oven to 350F.
Combine the caster sugar and quince puree in a large saucepan and simmer it gently while stirring until the paste turns a dark red colour. This may take around 20 minutes.
Pour it into a shallow oven dish, having first lined it with buttered, greaseproof paper.
Now bake it for around an hour until it sets. After an hour remove it from the oven and see if one corner of the paste will lift easily. If the bottom is still runny, put it back in the oven for 20 minutes. Repeat this until it sets.
When it is just ready, turn off the oven, but leave the quince paste in there for it to dry out and set further. Once cool, you can package it, domestic goddess style, to take to your dinner parties!