A few weeks ago, with a sudden mid-afternoon craven for blissful, crispy, buttery croissants, my sister and I ventured out to find the best in Melbourne. Sadly, the place that has earned the title was closed (it’s only open from Thursday-Sunday!)
So we ventured further afield to a well-loved French patisserie and bakery, but on the way stumbled upon Grub Food Van, which really is a cafe with a food van onsite, and we were enchanted! Long story short, we stayed and ate croissants. They were delightful – buttery, crisp yet soft and so luscious! Just what we wanted. But there’s more…
There were also fruit trees! And we were invited to take home as much bounty as we wanted. So we did. Believe me, when someone offers me free food, including produce, I lose whatever politeness I usually possess (which, depending on who you ask, isn’t really all that much anyway) and take the food! And run before they change their mind!
So we were now in possession of quinces! And feijoas, and persimmons, and a few cherry tomatoes!
The question was, what to do with them?
Quinces are strange things. They generally need to be cooked before you eat them, not because they’re poisonous, but because, like rhubarb, they just don’t taste great until they’re cooked. I think generally people either bake them until they’re sweet and red or make quince paste! But I’m sure there are other things you can do too! Like make puddings or even wine!
And when it comes to cooking with fresh produce that I’m not too familiar with, I find Stephanie Alexander is very, very helpful. In her book, The Cook’s Companion, she not only has some great recipes, but tells you exactly how to prepare and store fresh food (it’s highly recommended)! So she’s my trusted go-to for such occasions.
So here’s Stephanie Alexander’s baked quince recipe. It’s amazing. You really should try it. It’s warm, delicious and not too sweet. Serve it with some custard and it makes a very impressive dessert, and the ultimate comfort food for a cold winter evening! Plus they only cost about $4 per kilo in good fruit shops! So get on it!
Honey Baked Quinces
From Stephanie Alexander
3 well-washed quinces (try to get rid of any fuzz on the skin – but no need to peel them!)
about 4 tablespoons of honey – lightly flavoured is best
1/4 cup water
- Preheat your oven to 150C.
- Halve the quinces and remove the pips and core with a knife or spoon to make a rounded hollow – this can be tricky, but persevere! The end result is worth it!
- Place the quinces with the hollows facing upwards in a lightly greased baking tray or casserole dish that holds them snuggly.
- In the hollow of each quince place a knob of the butter and then drizzle the honey over the quinces. Then pour the water around the sides of the quinces – try to avoid getting it on top of the quinces.
- Cover the dish with foil and bake for around 3 hours until the quinces are soft and a nice, deep red wine colour. It can be good to turn the quinces over halfway through the cooking process. You can keep baking the quinces for up to about 4.5 hours! So bake for as long as you choose.
- Serve hot with, cream, custard or ice cream and any extra syrup from the quinces.