Knobbly pears or misshapen apples? Nope. Quince may look like a cross between the two but infact it is a fruit in its own right. In it’s raw form, the skin is rough and woolly, and the flesh is hard and unpalatable, with an astringent, acidulous taste because they are high in tannins, however sufficient cooking softens them and brings out the floral aroma they hold deep inside along with a delicate sweetness that balances out their sour edge. Cooking also turns the fruit’s flesh from creamy white to anywhere from a light rosy pink to a deep, dusky red. Quince is an ancient fruit and found in Roman cooking and grown across Turkey and southeast Asia.
So how to describe the taste of a quince, I guess a cross between an apple and a pear with slight tropical notes. Select fruit that are large, firm, and yellow with little or no green. Quinces should be picked when fully yellow and firm. Quinces must be handled carefully as they bruise really easily.
Quince jelly or membrillo is a delicious and perfect accompaniment to soft cheese or the scrumptious Spanish Manchego.
Points to remember about the fruit:
- It’s really hard and tough so take extra care when you’re preparing it for cooking.
- The fruit oxidised very quickly so have acidulated water ready to pop the cut and peeled fruit into.
Quince Crumble Tart with a Hazelnut Crust
- 1 Kg Quince
- 175 g Sugar
- 1 Cinnamon stick
- a couple of pieces of paired lemon any pith removed
- 100 g Plain flour
- 50 g Skinned hazelnuts
- 75 g Butter chilled & diced
- 35 g Caster sugar
- 3 Tbls cold water
- Crumble Topping
- 75 g Plain flour
- 50 g Unsalted butter chilled & diced
- 40 g Light brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
- a pinch of sea salt
- Preheat oven 180C. Begin by making the pastry. Blitz the hazelnuts to a fine meal in a food processor, now add the flour and chilled butter and pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and the cold water, pulse until the pastry comes together. Remove and bring the pastry together to form a nice smooth dough but don't over mix. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Peel the quince, taking care when you cut them as they are very tough. Cut into even sized pieces measuring approximately 5cm, they are going to be cooking for some time so don't cut them too small. Place the cut fruit into a saucepan and add water to just cover along with the sugar, cinnamon and lemon peel. Cut a disc of greaseproof paper slightly larger than the diameter of your saucepan, this is called a cartouche. Bring the quince slowly to the boil and simmer gently to give the sugar a chance to dissolve, place the cartouche on top of the simmering syrup (so that it has direct contact with the liquid) and let it cook very gently for approximately an hour to an hour and a half or until the quince are a dusky red.
- Remove the fruit from the syrup and set to one side reserving the syrup for later.
- Roll out the pastry larger than the case, carefully line your 23cm tin with the pastry, no need to trim the pastry, that will be done after baking, take a fork and prick the base of the pastry case. Line with baking beans or rice and place in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the baking beans and return to the oven for a further 12-15 minutes or until the pastry is completely cooked.
- Add a little of the syrup to your cooked quince and check for sweetness, if it's too tart add a little more but be careful to not make the pulp too runny and also take into account you will be adding a sweet crumble topping. Now tip this delicious cooked fruit into the baked pastry case.
- Place the flour, salt and cinnamon into a bowl, rub in the chilled butter so that it resembles breadcrumbs, add the sugar. Sprinkle the crumble onto the cooked fruit evenly and return to the oven for 20 minutes or until the crumble is golden and cooked. Trim the overlapping pastry with a microplane. Serve with cream and any remaining quince syrup.
*Shave the excess overlapping cooked pastry with a mircoplane so the the edge is level with the tart tin.