Tuesday, 18 October 2011
The quince encapsulates autumn.
As the season dawns, the fruit upon the tree begin to glow a vibrant yellow, ripening from their fuzzy green beginnings.
The flesh of the fruit is crisp and feels almost frozen under the knife. Warmth transforms the quince.
At first, you don't quite know how to dress a quince. Tights, leggings, boots, butter, poaching, roasting?
Once you take the coat off a quince, it must be quickly submerged into a new home without being left out in the damaging air.
Once placed in the pan, the creamy flesh slowly changes colour. By the end, chunks of quince are the colour of a crisp autumnal sunset.
I'm slowly getting used to an urban sunset, a city autumn - litter mixing with the mounds of crisp brown leaves, the tube-heat-coat troubles.
I found these quinces at a little market. Having never seen them for sale before, I grabbed a few. My grandmother used to make quince jelly but I didn't have enough. Simplicity won in the end - I wanted to really be able to taste this new fruit.
Finally, the rice pudding. As a child, I never really liked rice pudding. I fell in love with it this summer, when I ate a lot of it in France. It was served cold for breakfast, thick and creamy and topped with fresh fruit coulis. This pan barely lasted long enough to be photographed. Sometimes the simple pleasures are the best.
I thought it would meld well with the rosy quince. Each mouthful morphs from creamy to fragrant and fruity as you eat.
Rice Pudding with Buttered Quince
(Pudding adapted from Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets, quince from Nigel Slater's Tender Vol II)
For the pudding:
75g short grain rice (I used risotto rice)
850ml whole milk
50g caster sugar
pinch of sea salt
1 vanilla pod
For the quince:
1 quince (about 250g)
15g caster sugar
Place the rice, milk, caster sugar and sea salt into a medium saucepan. Split the vanilla pod and scrape the seeds out. Place the seeds and pod into the milk. Set over medium heat and bring to the boil then bring down the heat to a gentle simmer. Keep heating, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom with a spatula.
It will slowly thicken and the rice will cook. This can take at least an hour. (You can cook on the stovetop for 30 minutes then bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 150C too). By the end you still want it to be fairly loose as it will thicken - the rice will be visible on the top and the sauce should be about the thickness of custard. When it's ready pour it into a dish and cool to room temperature. Chill in the fridge overnight, or for at least 2-3 hours.
To start the buttered quince, prepare a bowl of cold water with a slice of the lemon, squeezing it to release the juice. Rub a little lemon over your peeler and peel the quice, dipping the exposed areas into the water. Cut into quarters and place three into the water. I found it easiest to then cut these in half lengthways, place on their triangular bottoms and slice the core out. Chop into chunks and place back into the lemon water. Repeat for the other pieces.
When they're done, place the butter and sugar into a medium pan and melt together. Juice the rest of the lemon into the pan and stir. Finally drain and add the quince chunks. Stir together and heat over a low-medium heat until the quince is very soft - it should be pinky orange instead of cream and easy to squish. This takes about 45 minutes, depending on the ripeness of the fruit.
To serve, spoon some of the cold rice pudding into a bowl and then top with some of the buttered fruit.