Lentils for breakfast- welcome

Here is your invitation to sample beautiful recipes that are good for you, good for the planet and good to eat. They mainly feature plants, because that's what I try to eat the most. I am not a fancy cook, but I believe that food is one of our greatest pleasures and deserves to be celebrated. Real food, whole food, kind food. Welcome to the feast!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Stephanie Alexander's poached and pot-roasted quince

Until recently I had never eaten quince. Not deliberately, I simply had never considered trying them - or even noticed them. Then I read a recipe by Stefano Manfredi in which he talked about how their aroma fills the kitchen. Intrigued, I decided to take a voyage of discovery.

I only purchased one quince because I didn't expect my husband or daughter to share my sudden enthusiasm. At home I consulted the recipe again - and learned that the cooking time was 8 hours. Really?!

Now, if you're a quince sophisticate, you would know this. But I was astonished. I've never cooked anything for that length of time before. I consulted other quince authorities for verification and finally decided to try Stephanie Alexander's poached quince recipe. She said at least 4 and up to 8 hours. Seemed a little more manageable.

Exotic ingredient alert: muslin
That was until I read that the core is cooked in a muslin bag with the quince. Where would I find muslin in suburban Neutral Bay?! In the healthfood shop, as it happens. The ever excellent Herbie's offer a length of muslin in their spice range. I chatted quinces with the nice lady. Oh yes, they like to take ages, she said. The longer the better.

Home with my muslin to embark on project quince - but the cast-iron pot that goes in the oven was full of my husband's weekend soup stock. It isn't often in such high demand.

The following day I tried again. I made the light sugar syrup that is the first step in Stephanie's recipe, thinking that things were getting ever more complicated. I made it with rapadura sugar as that is what we use, and it made a terribly dark sugar syrup. Hmmm.

Nothing daunted, I proceeded, cutting up the quince, taking out the core and tying it up with muslin (Herbie thoughtfully provides some string). Such is my inexperience I had 2 goes to get it right.

Then I realised that I couldn't put the pot in the oven for the rest of the afternoon - I need to roast some root vegetables for a frittata. My quince with its inexpertly tied core was oxidising in the dark sugar syrup  . . .  Do something. 

Stephanie also provides a recipe for pot-roasted quinces, courtesy of Maggie Beer. So I decided to do that instead. It required boiling the quince vigorously for 30 minutes and then simmering it for 5 hours. After some number of hours, I honestly couldn't say how many exactly, we were cooking dinner and needed the stove. So the cast-iron pot went into a slow oven for another aeon. Poor little quince.

Stephanie's poached quince
6 quinces, washed and peeled
2.25 L light sugar syrup
1 vanilla bean
juice of 1 lemon
lots of time

To make the light sugar syrup, heat 2 parts water to 1 part sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Preheat oven to 150 degrees C. Cut quinces into quarters or sixths. Cut out cores and tie loosely in a piece of muslin (trust me, you need a large square, especially for 6 quinces).

Put sugar syrup in a cast-iron pot with vanilla bean, lemon juice and muslin bag, then add quince. Cover tightly and bake in oven for at least 4 (and up to 8) hours until quince is deep red. Do not stir or the quince may break up. Cool and serve. Split the vanilla bean and scrape seeds into the gooey syrup.

The miracle of quinces is that they go from pale, citrusy yellow to deep carmine over all these hours. I was pretty impressed with my effort, and the rich, thick syrup that remained. How does it taste? Like quince paste. It's exceedingly rich, but not overly sweet and you need only the tiniest amount. And it's delicious on vanilla yoghurt.

Apparently the thing to do is to poach them overnight. In the meantime, I'll stick to stewing apples and pears. Ready in 8 mins. Not a full working day.

What about you, you cosmopolitan quince lover, you? What's your favourite recipe for this chameleon of the fruit world? How long does it take? If you need any muslin, I have loads. Talk to me in the comments.


  1. This sounds pretty interesting, Jill. I've never actually heard of quince before (just looked it up on Wikipedia!), but I may have to try it next time I'm feeling adventurous. :)

  2. I was deeply scarred by an unfortunate and unpleasant brush with stewed quinces when I was ten and have taken some convincing since then, that they are worth another try. I recently discovered that they are brilliant if poached in a slow cooker. I poached mine with vanilla and star anise overnight, then popped them into the oven and baked them. The result was soft, fragrant and richly sweet fruit that have utterly converted me - I'm now a total fan!

  3. Your approach sounds utterly delicious, Amanda. I don't have a slow cooker, but think it might try cooking them overnight in a low oven next time I have a go. Star anise, eh? And I know what you mean about being scarred . . . I doubt I'll ever eat rhubarb, even though it's been rehabilitated from the horrible mess it was for pudding when I was young!