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I love quince: the look, the fragrance and taste. And here is a bit of history, which as a historian in a past life, I always like to dwell on. 

Along with the fig, the quince is one of the oldest fruits in the world. Known as the “golden apple”, quince was mentioned as far back as 600 BC in Greek writings.  It was originally cultivated in Mesopotamia, the area now in Northern Iraq between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Indeed in ancient references that which was translated as "apple" may have actually been a quince. 
 It was revered as a symbol of love and abundance. In ancient Greece, a quince was a ritual offering at weddings as it was believed that it was sacred to Aphrodite as it was given to her by Paris. The bride would also nibble a quince to sweeten her breath before entering the bridal chamber. 
In Rome, quinces were commonly eaten stewed and sweetened with honey.
There is even a debate among Biblical scholars that Adam’s downfall in the Garden of Eden was not Eve’s apple but a quince!

Ok, I don't know much about the actual growing of quinces but I do know there are a number of varieties and they seem to ripen at varying time: from late summer to late autumn.The season is short lived particularly in the UK and as a result can be very expensive. I am lucky enough however, to have an uncle and aunt in Ely who have a couple of trees in their garden. At the end of every summer, they phone me to let me know they have picked a couple of bags for me. The following are just a couple of recipes that I make for the cafe. 

QUINCE CAKE with VANILLA SUGAR SYRUP
For poaching the quince 
Ingredients
1 large quince to give approximately 300g poached fruit
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (the pure vanilla extract with the vanilla seeds preferably but any 
good quality vanilla extract is fine)
½ cup caster sugar for poaching the fruit
Water
Method
1. Peel the quince and slice the flesh from the core with a sharp knife then cut into small 
slivers. Heat caster sugar with about a cup of water and the vanilla extract in a pan. Boil 
until the sugar has dissolved and then add the quince. Make sure the liquid covers the 
quince and if it does not then add more water. Make sure the pan is covered and simmer for 
approximately 8 or so minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. 
For the cake 
Ingredients
150ml good fruity olive oil
200g caster sugar 
3 eggs
350g plain flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
100g ground almonds
Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan). Grease and line a 20cm springform cake tin with nonstick baking paper. 
2. Whilst the quince is poaching, beat the sugar with the olive oil. Add the eggs, one at a time 
and beat until the mixture has increased in volume.
3. Sieve the flour and baking soda together and fold gradually into the oil and sugar mixture, 
using a metal spoon. At this point, the mixture will be very stiff.4. Strain the quince from the poaching liquid and add to the mixture along with the ground 
almonds and some of the poaching liquid - you only need enough to loosen the mixture so 
that it is not stiff but it does not need to be as soft as cake mixture usually is. 
5. Bake for approximately one hour but check after 45 minutes. A skewer should come out 
clean. Pour the vanilla sugar syrup over the hot cake and leave to cool. 
For the vanilla sugar syrup
1. Pour approximately a cup of the remaining poaching liquid over a ½ cup of caster sugar. Do 
not dissolve the sugar but make sure the sugar and liquid are thoroughly combine. 
2. Pour evenly over the cake. The liquid will seep through the cake while the sugar crystallises 
on the top. 

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QUINCE and PISTACHIO CAKE
For the poached quince 
Ingredients
¾ cup caster sugar 
½ cup orange 
1 cup water 
2 cinnamon sticks, crushed
3 medium quinces 
Method
1. Peel and quarter the quinces. Remove the core and slice into even segment. 
2. Combine sugar, juice, the water and cinnamon sticks in medium saucepan; stir over a low
heat, without boiling, until sugar has dissolved.
3. Add quince and simmer uncovered for about 1 hour or until quince is soft and liquid is 
almost absorbed. 
4. Leave to cool. Remove the cinnamon sticks.

For the cake
Ingredients
90g butter
2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
½ cup self-raising flour
1 cup plain flour 
¼ teaspoon baking
½ cup sour cream 
¼ cup orange juice
½ cup toasted pistachios, chopped
Method
1. Preheat an oven to 180°C (160°C fan). Grease a deep 23cm round cake tin and cover the
base with non-stick baking paper.
2. Beat butter, rind and sugar until pale and creamy. Beat the eggs together and slowly add to 
the mixture beating thoroughly after each addition. Gently fold in the sifted flour, soda along 
with the cream and juice. Fold in the pistachios. 
3. Arrange the quince slices over the base of the tin and cover with the cake mixture. 
4. Bake for approximately about 1 1/4 hours or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake 
comes out clean. 
5. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes before turning onto wire rack

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Always a popular one this but a bit fiddly. When I make it for the cafe, I have to prepare the salted caramel the evening before so that it is cool and thick enough to spread over the base. 

Ingredients: 
Biscuit base:
300g plain chocolate digestive biscuits
2 tablespoons dark cocoa
¼ cup sugar
125g butter, melted
Salted caramel:
450g granulated sugar
½ cup hot water
125g salted butter
150ml double cream
1 tsp good quality sea salt
Chocolate Ganache Toppin:
200ml double cream
200g dark chocolate
To make the Salted Caramel:
1.  In a heavy based saucepan mix the sugar and water together.
2. Stir until the sugar has dissolved completely.
3.  Cook until it becomes a golden caramel colour – this can take up to 15 minutes but keep watching it and stirring occasionally to stop the bottom burning.
4. Working quickly to prevent it burning, add the salt and butter.
5.  Then carefully pour in the cream. Stand back while doing this as the resulting steam is VERY hot. Whisk until the butter has melted and cream incorporated. Leave to cool and thicken.
Base:
1. Melt the butter.
2. Crush the biscuits as finely as possible.
3. Put the crushed biscuits in a bowl and stir in the cocoa and sugar.
4. Add the melted butter and mix together.
5. Press into the base and up the sides of a tart tin (I prefer the smooth edged ones rather than fluted but I guess you can use either)
6. Leave in the fridge or freezer until the base is firm.
7. Pour in the cooled salted caramel and put back in the fridge or freezer until cold.
8.  Cover with chocolate topping
Chocolate Ganache Topping:
1. Heat the cream until just below boiling point (it is ok if it boils but it does affect the smoothness a little.
2. Break the chocolate into the hot cream and leave for several minutes to melt. Stir until smooth.
When cutting the tart, it helps to use a hot knife!

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