Pretty picture isn’t it? Quince, at least the ones you get here in the northeast U.S are gnarly, green and have an incredible perfume. Often I buy them just so the scent permeates the apartment. Then I end up thinking: Now what am I going to do with them? The same three things come to mind: roast wedges of them with root vegetables, poached them in a sweet spiced, simply syrup or try again to make Membrillo (which means quince in Spanish, but it’s also the name for quince paste which is often served with cheese both in Spain and elsewhere). I love it, tho I have never been very successful in making it. Mines always ends up being kind of grainy and takes for ever and regardless of how long I cook it down I always feel like it could use another 12 hours. This recipe calls for slow cooking in the oven after it’s cooked on the stove top forever. Recently I’ve noticed some Membrillo’s have plum in them and I wonder if maybe that is the secret ingredient? Or maybe it’s the slow cooking in the oven. Maybe next year Ill try again.
This year I was given Ottolenghi’s new cookbook Plenty More, the encore to his hit first book Plenty. For those who are unaware of Mr. Ottolenghi’s oeuvre he has published 5 cookbooks I own 4 of them. Plenty and Plenty More are both vegetable cookbooks.
At the outcome this seemed like a very straight forward recipe, a clever riff on poached Quince with simple syrup and sweet spices only instead of simple syrup he uses pomegranate juice with some added sugar, orange juice and some star anise.
Quince Poached in Pomegranate Juice
Peel, de-stem, and core 2 lbs of quince, keeping the cores.
Cut the quince into 1″ thick slices and place in a large bowl. Each time you finish peeling and slicing a quince toss in a bit of lemon juice, in total you will use the juice from 1 lemon. Although he suggests 2 lbs of quince will be 2 large quinces using our locals one required 5.
Discard half the cores and place the rest of them in a piece of cheese cloth that has been doubled and that can be tied up.Place the sliced quince in a medium sized pot along with: the cheesecloth tied cores, 2 star anise pods (I never get perfect all in tact pods so a pile of pieces that fit into you palm should do it), 1 Vanilla Bean (seeds scraped out, but throw in the pods as well) the peel of 1 orange peeled into strips, 3 1/2 tablespoons of Orange Juice, 5 1/2 tablespoons of sugar* and 3 1/3 cups of Pomegranate juice**I used organic unsweetened pomegranate juice** and find the amount of sugar woefully lacking when I tasted it after cooking, so I added an additional 2 1/2 tablespoons of sugar making the total amount of sugar 8 tablespoons*. Once all the ingredients are in the pot taste and see. It’s not too late to add it at the end as you still have to reduce the syrup.
Cook over medium high heat until the mixture boils, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the quince slice are soft.
Remove the quince and set aside in a covered jar, or anything you have that can be sealed and put in the fridge.
Simmer the aromatics and syrup for another 20 minutes. When it has thickened to a nice syrupy consistency you are done. Sieve out the aromatics and pour the syrup over the quince. Not sure what I did wrong, but mine never got that deep red color. Maybe I need to hire a stylist? 😉 Also he suggests eating them right away with clotted cream, fresh mint (really?) and pomegranate seeds. The reason I say really to the mint isn’t because I have anything against mint I just am of the school that it makes sense to garnish a dish with something that is in the dish and in this case you are already adding the seeds so do you really need the mint?
I found they got better each day they sat in the fridge, they became less mealy and took on a more integrated flavor. Fresh out of the pot they had a strong orange, vanilla spice flavor that was reminiscent of eating a scented holiday candle. Not that it was bad, I just prefer the way they have mellowed over the week.
I served mine with a Ginger Cake (I called it a soufflé cake on my menu board, but I think a better name for it would be a Ginger Fudge Cake as it is so moist and dense. The original recipe called for individual cakes made in soufflé dishes). I topped mine with home made Vanilla Ice Cream and no mint. Pomegranate seeds would have been nice…but alas I had used them all in the salad.Sorry for the dark picture, but I just can’t find it in myself to turn all the lights up to take a beauty shot when I am serving desert. Bad food blogger! Bad!
Here’s a better shot of the cake and the rest of the deserts from Thanksgiving. The ginger cake is covered in candied ginger. I promise the recipe here soon!If you haven’t checked out any of Yotam Ottolenghi and his oft partner in cook book writing crime Sam Tamimi’s books you should. My favorite one so far is Jerusalem He has a uniquely middle eastern take on his food that gives a refreshing twist to familiar foods, like quince.
I find, like with almost all cookbooks, his recipes provide a great backbone to start from, you shouldn’t be afraid to adjust and play with them until they are just perfect for you.