Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness! I love autumn, as you probably can tell. Despite our insatiable desire to have all fruit and veg, all year round, there are some that still only appear strictly in season. Asparagus and gooseberries in early summer; plums in August; Seville oranges in January….and late October/early November, following the hit of orange from pumpkin season, the quinces arrive. You may be lucky and have a tree in your garden, in which case, I’m jealous!
Now because they’re so seasonal and not always available in every supermarket, some may have not heard of them. They’re from the same family as apples and pears, and indeed look like big ,yellow, rather ugly , blotchy, pears. They do give off a really floral perfumed aroma when ripe. And you can’t eat them raw (you can, but they’re hard, astringent and sour, and need to be ‘bletted’ – softened by frost and practically rotted in order to do so), which I think puts people off them. They do however, stew up a treat, and they’re used in all sorts of ways on the continent and in Asia. Most common use here is being made into jelly/clear jam to go with roasts, or as membrillo paste, that sweet red block you can buy off the cheese counter.
So anyway, let’s talk about this recipe. I inherited this from my mother two years ago, who in turn obtained it from one of her neighbours, and it’s sat in my laptop as one of those ‘may give it a go’ things. After spotting some locally grown quinces on the market a few days ago, I grabbed some, deciding now it was time to make it, and share with folk the joys of these most autumnal of fruits.
This recipe is certainly one for the season – pick a cold, wet day where you have nothing on, and don’t mind pottering about the kitchen as it does take up a bit of time. But it’s not the most ‘hands on’ – never mistake time-consuming with difficult, please! You have to stew the quinces for an hour – yes but they just bubble away gaily on the hob and you can find something else to do. Plus the pastry and puréed quinces can be done ahead of time if you’re planning to serve it to guests.
Turns out the source of this recipe was actually closer than I thought….BBC Good Food published it in 2011. D’oh. It’s in my own words and written up from my experience of making it.
Anyway, enough of me rabbiting on, here’s the recipe:
Quince Crumble Pie
For the Quince Puree:
1kg/2lb Quinces, cored & roughly chopped
175g/6oz Caster Sugar
Zest & juice of half a Lemon
1tsp Ground Cinnamon
2 tbsp Cornflour
For the Pastry
140g/5oz butter diced
200g/7oz plain flour
50g/2oz Ground Almonds
75g/2 half oz Caster Sugar
Zest of 1 Lemon
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
For the Crumble Topping:
100g/4oz plain Flour
75g/2.5oz of rolled Oats
75g/2.5oz Caster Sugar
140g/5oz butter, diced
To make the quince puree:
- Place chopped quinces in a large pan with 350ml water, cover with a lid & simmer for 1 hour or until the quinces change colour & are pulpy.
- Remove from heat & allow to cool slightly, then blitz with a blender until smooth. You can rub it through a sieve if you want, but I don’t think it’s necessary, especially if you’ve got a good blender.
- Put the purée into a clean pan & add the sugar, lemon zest & juice, and cinnamon. Cook puree until it is reduced by about a third, then slake the cornflour with with a little water & stir into puree until it is thick. Remove from heat & allow to cool.
To make pastry and assemble the pie:
- In a bowl by hand, or in a processor or stand mixer, rub the butter in to the flour & almonds until it resembles damp sand. Add the sugar & lemon zest and then the egg + egg yolk, mixing until it coheres to a dough. Wrap in cling & chill for 20-30 mins in the fridge. Be warned, this is a VERY sticky dough! Do not skip the chilling.
- Press dough (the original recipe said roll out on a floured surface but it STICKS LIKE HELL so I had to push it straight into the tin with my hands) into a 22cm tart tin. Chill it in the fridge for a further 15 mins. Preheat oven to 160C/140 fan/gas 3.
- Remove from fridge and then blind bake for 20 minutes. Take out the
parchment paper & baking beans, stab a few times with a fork, and cook for a further 15 minutes, until the base is biscuity. Remove from oven & allow to cool slightly.
- While base is finishing off in the oven, make the crumble topping. Mix flour, oats & sugar in a bowl with a pinch of salt, then rub in the butter until you have an uneven crumbly mix.
- Once base is ready, turn heat up to 180C/160 fan/Gas mark 4.
- To assemble the tart; .pour the cooled, rust-hued quince puree in to the cooked tart shell so it comes just below the top, and then sprinkle over the crumble & bake for 25-30 mins or until golden & the quince is bubbling around the edge. Be careful the crust doesn’t darken too much.
- You can serve warm with custard, but I preferred to leave to cool and serve with a splash of cream.