Last week, when we had dinner at the restaurant of our Kitchen Table Friend Mari Maris in the French countryside (when you ever get the chance to go there, do so!), she gave us a large bag full of quinces. Fragrant, yellowish quinces. After they had been sitting on the countertop for a couple of days, filling the house with their special aroma, it was time to do something with them. The quince is not the kind of fruit that you quickly turn into a dish. It’s rock-hard and inedible when raw. It asks for attention, love, patience, and cooking! Only then will it reveal its floral taste and beautiful deep rosy pink color.
Although these quinces come from France, they remind me of Spain, where I briefly lived when I was a teenager. In Spain, quince paste, Dulce de Membrillo, paired with small wedges of Manchego cheese is a popular tapa. I remember I liked to make sandwiches with a slice of sticky quince paste and cured Manchego on top. Muy bueno! Dulce de Membrillo is often made with a lot of sugar, but I prefer to make it with honey. Quince and honey go very well together.
Have patience and stir. Maybe these are the main ingredients for quince paste. It easily takes 40-60 minutes of stirring before the quince puree turns into a thick sticky paste. But the good news is that you can keep it in the fridge for months and that you only need small amounts of it. I love to serve a few small cubes of quince paste with Manchego and fresh walnuts after dinner. With the paste you can also make a good quince aioli, a thick garlicky sauce, which goes very well with duck or game.
QUINCE PASTE (DULCE DE MEMBRILLO)
Action time: 20 minutes + 40-60 minutes cooking time + cooling
2 lb/ 900 g quinces (about 5-6 medium quinces)
juice of 1 small lemon
Extra: food processor, rubber spatula, passé-vite of fine sieve, parchment paper
1. Scrub the quinces and pat dry. Do not peel the quinces, only remove brown spots with a small knive. Quarter the quinces, remove the core and cut into pieces. Place pieces in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and let the quince pieces cook for about 30 minutes until they are very soft.
2. Strain the quinces and puree them in the food processor. Force puree with a rubber spatula through a fine sieve into a small bowl, or use a passé-vite with a fine sieve. Measure the amount of puree. Measure 3/4 of this amount in honey, for example: if you measure 400 g puree, measure 300 g of honey. Transfer puree to a saucepan and add the honey and lemon juice.
3. Cook the quince puree for 40-60 minutes over low to moderate heat, stirring every 5 minutes, until it is thickened and has a deep orange pink color. The puree is ready when it pulls away from the side of the pan and a spoon can be stuck into it without falling to a side.
4. Take the pan from the heat and put puree into a small shallow square dish lined with parchement paper, smoothing the top with a spatula. Chill for a couple of hours until set.
5. Run a knife around the sides of the dish and invert the quince paste onto a platter. Slice paste thinly or cut into small cubes and serve it with cheese and nuts.
Makes 1 small jar
Action time: 5-10 minutes
5 oz/150 g quince paste (see recipe above)
2 large gloves of garlic
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon juice, plus extra
150-200 ml mild olive oil
Extra: food processor
1. Puree the quince paste toghether with garlic, salt, and lemon juice in a food processor until it’s smooth.
2. Gradually add the oil and pulse until the oil is incorporated and the sauce is thick. Season with more salt and lemon juice if you like.