28 October 2014

Quince crumble

Quinces are one of those funny, old-fashioned autumnal fruits. A relative of both the apple and pear, they look a bit like a large knobbly yellow pear. They are not the most user-friendly of fruits, in that being quite starchy they need a fair bit of cooking before eating. They are, however, delicious, having a fragrant yet tart flavour, which is best brought out by a long, slow cook. They make a great crumble. Because the quinces require cooking before the crumble is assembled, this is not a quick pudding for a weekday evening. It is, however, well worth the effort. This recipe should give about six servings.

cooked quinces


4 large quinces
1L water
250g caster sugar

For the topping

120g plain flour
1/2tsp baking powder
50g cold unsalted butter
50g light brown sugar
75g ground almonds

To cook the quinces

The quinces can be cooked a day in advance. Quinces cooked in this way can be used in a number of ways. If you don't want to make a crumble, you could eat the quinces as they are, use them in pies or tarts, or in any other way your imagination takes you.

Pre-heat the oven to 140C (280F).

Place the water and caster sugar in a pan over a low heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar has melted and you have a sugar syrup.

Meanwhile, peel the quinces, quarter them and remove the cores. Retain the peel and cores. Cut each quarter in half lengthways.

Take a roasting pan and lay the peel and cores in the bottom, and cover with a layer of baking parchment. The peel and pips give the quinces their rich orangey-pink colour as they cook. Layer the fruit on the top of the baking parchment. Bring the sugar syrup to the boil, and pour over the fruit until covered. Cover with another layer of baking parchment. Put a slightly smaller roasting tray on top to hold the quinces under the syrup. Cover the whole thing with tin foil. Some people cook quinces with star anise, vanilla or other aromatics, but I think the flavour of the quinces speaks for itself.

Pop the quinces in the oven and cook for about 3-4 hours. When cooked the quinces should retain their shape, but be soft in texture. Leave the quinces covered by the sugar syrup until ready to use.

The topping

Weigh out the flour and baking powder. Cut the butter into cubes and rub into the flour, until it looks a bit like breadcrumbs. (This can be done in a food processor to save time).

Add the sugar and ground almonds, and mix in (again this can be done in the food processor).


Pre-heat the oven to 190C (370F)

Remove the quinces from the syrup (keep the syrup - it is too tasty to be discarded) and arrange in the bottom of a high-sided pie dish. Add 2 tbsp of the syrup.

Cover with the topping, and bake for about 40 minutes, or until golden brown.

Serve with creme fraiche.

The syrup

The syrup is delicious, and can be used to make sorbet or jelly, or mixed with prosecco and drunk as a seasonal aperitif.

To make sorbet, add about 2 tbsp more of caster sugar, and stir over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved. Chill the syrup overnight, strain to remove any pips or other solids, then churn in an ice-cream maker as per the maker's instructions.

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