Last week my friend Gaynor gave me some quince. I have been intrigued by this fruit for a long time and was excited to get my hands on some and do something with them.
I knew they could be challenging to cook with and the only home made dish I had tried so far was quince jelly – made by another friend, not me. Occasionally they turn up on a restaurant menu and I have eaten them in both sweet and savoury dishes.
This is how they grow. This tree in the next village was positively dripping with fruit, not quite ripe yet. I thought I would see how I got on with cooking them before I considered sneaking back to scrump some of the ones dangling outside the owner’s garden….
I have to say that they are the devil’s own job to prepare. I decided to use two recipes by David Lebovitz and he warns about the dangers of grappling with them. The peel comes off quite easily and the flesh is firm like an unripe pear. The core however is very woody and puts up a hell of a fight. It took me the best part of an hour to core this lot. Consequently I have given the recipe a faff factor *** as it is not for the faint hearted!
First I poached the pears using the recipe that you can see here, although I changed the quantities to suit the number of pears I had. To make the tarte tatin I reduced some of the poaching liquid in the tatin tin until it began to caramelise then arranged the pears on top. You can see the recipe here.
I used a pack of ready made, ready rolled puff pastry for the crust rather than make my own – to save time, having already spent much longer than I expected on preparing the fruit!
The quince changed colour spectacularly when they were cooking in the oven and on turning out the tarte this fabulous pink creation emerged like a butterfly from its chrysalis.
While it was baking in the oven I got on with making the ice cream. I had spotted this recipe on Phil’s blog called As Strong as Soup and had a strong desire to make it immediately! I had to wait until Nick and I had found all the various parts of our ice cream machine and then let the bowl chill in the freezer for twenty four hours before I could start.
The ice cream was utterly delicious. I used a whole jar of Bon Maman “confiture du lait” and it made a good sized box of ice cream that continued to delight us long after the tarte tatin was finished. The tarte was also delicious, a great hit and a very impressive dessert when both are served together.
For the poached pears
5 large quince, peeled, cored and quartered
1.5 litres of water
1 lemon, halved
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean, split lengthways
Bring the water, sugar, honey, lemon and spices to a gentle boil and add the quince. Cover with a circle of baking parchment with a walnut-sized hole in the middle and simmer gently until they are tender. Mine took an hour.
Remove the fruit from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Strain and reserve all the liquid, discarding the lemon and spices. The poached fruit will keep for about a week in their liquid in a sealed container in the fridge.
For the tarte tatin
Preheat the oven to 190C / 170 fan.
Put 300 ml of the strained poaching liquid into a tatin dish or ovenproof frying pan and cook on the hob until it is reduced and thickened. Mine took quite a long time to reach this point and suddenly bubbled up like caramel. At that point I quickly removed it from the heat.
Arrange the pears cut side up in the pan, packing tightly and filling any gaps with pieces of pear.
Carefully lay an unrolled circle of puff pastry over the pan, tucking in the edges, remembering that the tin will be hot so be very careful not to burn yourself. Prick the pastry with a fork and bake for about 45 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.
Remove from the oven and rest on a cooling rack for a few minutes before placing a serving plate upside down on top of the tarte and carefully turning out. If any fruit is left behind in the pan it’s an easy job to replace it in the tart. Spoon any syrup left behind in the pan over the tart as you don’t want to miss any of its deliciousness.
Serve warm or at room temperature with the dulce de leche ice cream. Or of course any ice cream of your choice but you really should try this one.
For the ice cream
See Phil’s recipe here.