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
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
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
150ml good fruity olive oil
200g caster sugar
350g plain flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
100g ground almonds
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.
For the pdf version
QUINCE and PISTACHIO CAKE
For the poached quince
¾ cup caster sugar
½ cup orange
1 cup water
2 cinnamon sticks, crushed
3 medium quinces
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
4. Leave to cool. Remove the cinnamon sticks.
For the cake
2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1 cup caster sugar
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
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
For a pdf version