Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Poached quince

I wasn't sure about quinces. With their pretty pale yellow hue and bulbous prehistoric form, they always seemed more ornamental than edible. Don't get me wrong - quince paste is just about my favourite thing on earth with a slice of cheese, however when you can buy a slab of that cheaply at your local deli, there's not much incentive to make it yourself. But I had a quince evangelist staying with me on and off for the last five weeks and - hailing from the northern hemisphere (by way of Newcastle, Australia) - she was keen to soak up as much autumnal fruit as she could before returning to summer. And soak she did, submerging fat slices of fruit in sugar syrup and baking them slowly til they turned ruby red and my apartment was filled with the fragrance of vanilla. One night I tried some for dessert. They were sweet, silky and swimming in the sticky scarlet syrup of their juices. I was sold.

Let me start by saying that quinces are no fun at all to peel. Their irregular shape with all its crazy contours makes a simple task utterly frustrating. What's more, in its uncooked state, the fruit is rock hard so if you can imagine coring a rock, well, you will appreciate that the next step isn't any easier. But once that's done, so is all the hard work. After that it's just a matter of slicing them up, tossing them into an oven-proof casserole with the other ingredients, putting the lid on and sliding the whole thing into the oven. My houseguest is gone now, departed early Monday morning on a flight bound for SeaTac. The last thing she ate before heading to the airport was a single slice of poached quince, leaving me with a Tupperware container full of sweet poached fruit with which to remember her... and autumn too.

Poached quince
Recipe adapted from Stephanie Alexander's A Cook's Companion

I'm convinced these are even better the day after cooking, so are an ideal make-ahead dessert for any gathering. The original recipe calls for the cores of the quinces to be loosely tied in a piece of muslin and popped into the casserole with the other ingredients for the duration of the cooking. I did this but having also tasted a core-less batch, I'm not entirely sure it's worth the bother. But by all means, give it a try for yourself. 

5 cups of water
2 1/2 cups sugar
5 quinces
one vanilla bean
juice of one lemon

Preheat the oven to 150 deg C.

In a large, oven-proof casserole, make a light sugar syrup by combining the sugar and water over a low heat and stirring til the sugar has dissolved.

Peel and core the quinces and chop each quarter into three fat slices. Place fruit in the casserole with the sugar syrup, along with the vanilla bean and the lemon juice. Make sure the quince slices are completely submerged in liquid (if not, top up with a little more sugar syrup using the ratio 2 parts water to 1 part sugar). 

Cover tightly and bake in the oven for 4-8 hours (watch that the syrup doesn't boil - if it does, turn the temperature down to 100 deg C), or until quince is deep red. Do not stir or the fruit may break up.

Let cool and serve with Greek yoghurt, vanilla ice-cream or a decadently thick double cream.


  1. Lovely post! Alice. I'm glad you've lost your fear of quinces.

  2. I've been called many things, but never a quince evangelist! I like it - it has a nice ring to it! Alice you were a great student and the taste, like that of the madeline, will linger long ... I can taste them yet! Delish.