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Culture: Lee Bye from Tuddenham Mill hails the Ugly Sister

Quince, Lee Bye
Quince, Lee Bye

‘The Roman quince’, Mat says with a smirk, shaking vigorously our latest martini cocktail at Tuddenham.

These unusual, unsung little chaps have a real place on the stove this time of year in Tuddenham and it seems in our bar mixers too. Quince tarte fine, Spanish membrillo, or simple syrup to long bathe our rum baba’s in for evening service.

Quince, Lee Bye
Quince, Lee Bye

The appeal of immediate edibility is completely off limits, this fruit is tough, ugly, hard to handle and chop (watch your fingers), but what lays under the golden-toned skin is the ultimate reward and secret.

I’m a big fan of quince and maybe the under-use of it is why I love the purity of flavour it brings. It’s not heavily farmed or rushed through production like the eating apple we all know.

The ugly sister the quince may be, but this year she is going to the ball, with a martini in hand.

Membrillo (Spanish style quince paste)

10 large quince

500g caster sugar

1 large lemon

Peel and slice the quince and place in a large pot. Cover with water, enough to just cover the quince, and boil on a medium heat for 25 minutes.

Once the quince is soft, strain through a fine sieve. Keep the liquid that comes off the fruit, this is autumn gold and perfect for pouring over your yogurt in the morning.

Place the quince pulp into a clean pot and add the sugar and the lemon juice. Boil for 2-3 hours. We are trying to achieve a paste, rich and deep in colour. The aromas from the pot will be incredible!

Taste, taste, taste and if it needs a touch more sugar, don’t be afraid to add more. Quince can be very tart.

Rub a baking dish with a little soft butter and pour in the cooked quince. Leave to set.

Once set, turn out and smother all over hot, crusty, toasted sour dough. Eat with a strong, crumbly cheddar, perfect with a small glass of mead from our Broadland brothers in Norfolk.

This beautiful plate of quince was created by Thomas Keller who cooks out of the French laundry in Napa Valley, California, one of the most prestigious restaurants in the world. This dish for me really has elevated the humble quince to its ultimate elegance and best. ‘Quince, rosemary pastry cream, black truffle and vanilla. A clear showing of real respect for ingredients and balance of flavours.

Lee Bye is chef patron at Tuddenham Mill,

High Street, Tuddenham

01638 713552


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