Quinces smell floral. Put their furred yellow skins to your nose and breathe them in. A complex scent, the note of rose is the only hint that these tough fruits transform. After enough time in the pot or pan, they colour rich red. The flesh finally relaxing, becomes soft and sweet. To the Queenslander in me, quinces still seem positively exotic, medieval, and I buy them simply to admire the look of a bowl of them. When I finally submit to the need to cook them, they must be peeled of their furred skin and a heavy, sharp knife is needed to cut through their woody insides. (Thank goodness for my new Arigitsu knife; perfect for cutting through bones, pumpkins and quinces.) Nigel Slater says quinces herald winter, and these late Autumn fruits are still available.
The cooked quinces I intended to top thick slices of brioche French toast, that would be perfect drizzled with the quince syrup that’s so beautifuly scented and spiced with aniseed and cinnamon. But the decadent breakfast I’d planned never eventuated and instead the quinces sat waiting in the fridge until our friend Nadia suggested they find their resting place atop a moist, almondy yoghurt cake. A happy match. (And it didn’t last long enough to photograph, sorry …)
poached quince halves
4 large quinces
3 cups raw caster sugar
3 star anise
1 stick cinnamon
Peel and halve the quinces, cutting out the cores (I just scooped, and think cutting it best, so there’s no woodiness). This may take a little while, so put the already cut ones in a bowl of water with some slices of lemon so they don’t go brown. In a saucepan bring the sugar and water to the boil. Add aromatics.
Set oven to very low 100C. Put the sugar syrup and quinces in a large cast iron casserole dish. Cover tightly and bake for four to eight hours – until the quince is tender and a deep rosy red. Check at times to make sure there is enough liquid with the quinces. (I used less water than recommended here for the quinces in the photo and the syrup ended up reducing down to almost jam.)
Remove quinces and reserve the poaching liquid, it can be reduced down further and used as a glaze or sweet drizzle.
Allow to cool, ponder French toast for days, turn to cake.
quince yoghurt cake
Recipe thanks to Nadia Mizner.
1 cup Greek yoghurt
1 cup raw caster sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 free-range eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
1 cup almond meal
zest of 1 lemon
poached quinces, sliced
3 tbsp almond slivers and a little raw sugar
Set oven to 180C. Whisk wet ingredients together. Fold in dry ingredients. Pour mixture into a greased spring form tin, line the bottom with baking paper. Artfully arrange the quinces on the top of the cake. Sprinkle with the almond slivers and a little raw sugar.
This makes a small cake, we usually double it!
Bake for 35-40 minutes.
ps. Thank you Mr Kitley for the borrow of the beautiful spoon.