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Peeling back the secret: Placing the spotlight on quince

Quince membrillo
Quince membrillo

‘Quince….free to a good home’ – it seems my followers on Twitter have a surplus amount of the Roman aged fruit going spare.

These unusual, un-sung little chaps have a real place on the stove this time of year in Tuddenham. Terrines, Spanish membrillo, marmalade or simply poached in wild honey from Longwood Farm in Tuddenham, all have been great treats to cook and eat.

French laundry quince dish
French laundry quince dish

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.

To make the membrillo (Spanish style quince paste)

10 large quince

500g caster sugar

Lee Bye
Lee Bye

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. The liquid that comes off the fruit keep, this is autumn gold and perfect for pouring over your yogurt in the morning.

With the quince pulp, place into a clean pot, and add the sugar and the lemon juice and 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 or lemon juice 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. Once set, turn out and smother all over hot, crusty, toasted sour dough and a strong, crumbly cheddar.

A glass of Broadlands mead from our brothers in Norfolk is the perfect tipple to see the quince on its way.

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.

The beautiful plate of quince – second picture – 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 head chef at Tuddenham Mill. Follow him on Twitter: @leebyechef

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