Quinces need time to be tantalising; it’s not one for the lunch box. This is a great way of turning your determinedly firm quinces into soft, sumptuous fruits that you can use in a myriad of different ways. When the ground is covered in fallen leaves and the evenings are slightly cool, the smell of this wafting from the kitchen is unimaginably warming.
You will need:
3 medium quinces
3 tbsp runny honey
1 star anise
You will also need a very sharp knife, determination and a whole lot of lemons. Once exposed to the air the flesh of a quince browns like no other; blink and you’ll think your quince has been replaced by a muddy potato. To prevent this you need to put lemon juice on everything the quince is likely to touch; chopping board, knife and even the quince itself. It’s also advisable to squeeze some lemon juice into a bowl of water to store the quinces when they’ve been peeled.
Peel and quarter the quinces and remove the seeds. Put each quince into the acidulated water while you attempt the next. Remove the quinces from the water and put into an oven proof dish with the water, honey and star anise. Bake in the oven for around two hours at 170C or until soft. It takes a surprisingly long time to bake a quince into submission.
When the quinces are done you can use them and the honeyed spiced syrup in so many different ways: put them into porridge, serve them with cream or yoghurt, add to a rice pudding or just enjoy them as they are. They not only make the house smell amazing as they cook but the taste is reminiscent of antiquated times. It’s hard to explain what a quince tastes like; I’d go for almost tropical mixed with pear. Despite them being hard to find, a devil to get in to and laborious to cook, there’s nothing else quite like it.