Quince is one of my top five fruits.* So I was delighted when Turkish ones started appearing at my greengrocers a couple of weeks ago. I hope we’ll be seeing lots of English quince soon too, what with the mast year that’s been occurring for so many other fruit bearing trees and shrubs.
If you’re not familiar, quince looks like a cross between a fat apple and a yellow pear, has a slightly floral aroma and can be tacky to the touch. It’s not a fruit to eat raw. But when slowly poached, turns a glorious sunset colour and that floral nose intensifies and is reflected – magnified, even – in the eating.
Frankly, all you really need is some warm custard, a spoon of yoghurt, or maybe a bit of cream whipped, Chantilly style, with vanilla and sugar.
I have, however, been tarting about with it. Sliced thinly and splayed on top of a cooked custard base, it was hyper pretty and certainly tasty. But a bit of a faff. It was much easier, and maybe more satisfying, to tear the fruit into chunks and dot them above a simple cheesecake mix, along with a few blueberries and a sprinkle of coconut.
Always cook more quince than you need – to nibble at whilst you portion up, and maybe to have for breakfast. Use the leftover poaching liquor as a base for a gin cocktail or to make into jelly.
* (raspberry, gooseberry, orange, blackcurrant, btw)
Quince and blueberry tart
makes 4 12cm diameter tarts, or 1 24cm tart1 x shortcrust pastry amount (see my standard recipe and method here) 2 large quince 1 vanilla pod 800g water 180g caster sugar 200g cream cheese 70g thick greek yoghurt 15g icing sugar Punnet of blueberries Handful of desiccated coconut
Preheat the oven to 130C.
Bring the sugar and water to the boil in a small saucepan. Peel and quarter the quince and remove the hard core. Place the peelings and core in the bottom of a non-reactive dish tray (stainless steel or pyrex best, ceramic ok, aluminium and coated non stick terrible) and cover with greaseproof or baking paper. Place the quince quarters on top, cover with the boiling sugar syrup. Cut the vanilla pod down the middle, scrape out the seeds and reserve them for later, then place the pods among the quince pieces. Top the quince with another piece of paper and push the fruit so they stay mostly under water. Cover with foil. Cook for 3-4 hours, gently turning the fruit over after 2 hours. They will be rosy and soft when you remove them from the oven. Allow them to cool and the sunset will develop, but the fruit will hold its shape. Put in the fridge in their poaching liquor until you wish to use.
Using a silicon spatula or wooden spoon, mix the cream cheese, yogurt, vanilla seeds and icing sugar together in a bowl. Place in the fridge to set up a bit.
Blind bake your tart case / cases for ten minutes at 180C, then a further ten minutes thoroughly brown the case (there’s no more cooking). Allow to cool.
Assemble the tart – will keep nicely for 12 hours, but particularly good if put together last minute. Spread the cream cheese mix over the tart base. Break the quince pieces up into roughly 2cm cubes. Arrange randomly over the base. Dot blueberries amongst the quince and sprinkle coconut over the top (if not eating immediately, reserve the coconut until you are about to serve).