Quinces

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A beautiful bowl of quinces fills a room with its heady fragrance. To my mind, this is reason enough to buy them. Quinces keep well and don’t need to be refrigerated. They won’t ripen more, once they have been picked, although the pectin level will diminish. The season starts in March and finishes sometime in July. They require long, slow cooking to bring out the jewel-like deep, crimson colour.

A jar of quince jelly is a simple object of beauty. The following jelly recipe is quite straightforward, even if you haven’t attempted jelly making before. Remember, it is easier to use under ripe fruit, as this has a higher pectin content, which will help the jelly set quicker. If you want to make jelly later in the season, when the fruit is ripe, try Stephanie Alexander’s quince and Seville orange jelly in the Cook’s Companion. The higher pectin content in the citrus will help with the setting. The bitter orange offsets the sweetness of the quince. It is a sublime combination.

I always make use of the leftover fruit from the jellymaking Sometimes I make quince paste. It is fairly simple, as you only have to pass the fruit through a mouli, weigh the puree and add the same weight in raw sugar. Cook over a low heat until quite thick, about twenty minutes, then pour into containers for storage.

I also like to make fruit crumble. Quince and apple are delicious together, with a little ginger in the crumble topping, if you like.

Honey baked quinces is another simple recipe. No need to peel or core the quinces first, just a quick wash to remove the downy fuzz, then quarter them and drizzle with honey and verjuice. Add some aromatics and bake for a few hours, well covered so they don’t dry out. As the quinces are so sweet, this is perfectly offset with a dollop of farmhouse yoghurt.

 

Quince jelly

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Use under ripe quinces as the high pectin content will help the jelly set. If you are a little nervous about the jelly setting, have a couple of packets of Jamsetta on hand. Follow the instructions on the pack for no-fail results.

 

8 quinces, washed

2 large lemons, quartered

2 kg caster sugar

1 vanilla bean, split

 

Place the whole quinces, lemon, sugar, vanilla bean and 3.5 litres of water in a large stockpot. Bring to the boil and simmer for 2 hours.  Pour into a large jelly bag or sieve lined with muslin, suspended over a large bowl and strain. Do not squeeze the bag or your jelly won’t be clear.

Set aside the drained fruit for another use.

Return the strained liquid to a clean saucepan, bring to the boil and boil rapidly for 1 hour, skimming the surface if necessary. Do not stir the jelly.

Place a few small saucers in the freezer to chill.

Test if jelly is at setting point by dropping a teaspoon of liquid onto a chilled saucer. Place saucer back in freezer for two minutes. Remove and gently run your finger through the jelly. If it wrinkles and forms a skin, it is at setting point. If not, try again after 5 minutes. You will notice that your bubbling pot of jelly starts to thicken and the bubbles become thicker. This indicates that the setting point is close.

Once setting point is reached, remove pot from heat and wait for bubbles to subside.

Pour into sterilised jars and seal whilst hot.

Regfrigerate after opening.

 

Makes approximately 1.5 litres.

 

Quince & Apple crumble

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4 granny smith apples

half cup water

4 cooked quinces* (reserved from jelly recipe)

2 tablespoons soft butter for greasing dish

half cup self raising flour

80g unsalted butter

1 teaspoon ground ginger

4 tablespoons muscovado sugar

4 tablespoons shredded coconut

 

Preheat oven to 180C.

Peel, quarter and core apples. Place in small saucepan with water and cook over gentle heat, covered, until softened, about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and set aside.

If using leftover quinces, simply remove skin and cores.

Butter a large ovenproof serving dish (or individual dishes) and spoon fruit into dish.

Make crumble topping by rubbing butter into flour in a mixing bowl until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Do not overmix. Add ginger, brown sugar and coconut. Stir to combine.

Scatter crumble topping over fruit mixture, place in oven and cook for 30 minutes until topping is golden brown.

Serve hot with vanilla icecream or thick pouring cream.

 

Serves 4-6.

 

*note: if you are not  using up leftover fruit, simply prepare the quinces first; Peel, core and quarter the quinces. Place in a saucepan with 1 cup of caster sugar and three quarters cups of water and simmer for 30 minutes until tender. Add apples to the saucepan and continue the recipe, as above.

 

 

Honey roasted quinces with verjuice


4 large quinces

1 lemon, quartered

1 cup verjuice (try the sangiovese verjuice if you can)

8 tablespoons honey

zest of one lemon

2 cinnamon sticks

vanilla bean, split lengthwise

 

Preheat oven to 180C.

Wash the quinces to remove the downy coat. Cut in quarters and place in large roasting tray. Place lemon quarters in tray, giving them a good squeeze, and pour over verjuice and drizzle with honey. Scatter lemon zest, cinnamon sticks and vanilla pod.

Cover with aluminium foil and bake for 4 hours until deep rose coloured, turning over half way through.

Remove from oven and discard lemon quarters, cinnamon and vanilla bean.

Serve warm with thick yoghurt, cream or icecream.

 

 

Serves 4 – 6.

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Faster Pasta

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I’m always on the lookout for quick and easy pasta recipes. Gnocchi is a family favourite. When I’m short on time, this ricotta gnocchi is perfect. Delicate, soft pillows that melt in your mouth; you wont believe how easy they are to make. A simple sauce from three ingredients and dinner’s done.

Another speedy pasta trick is to use Asian wonton wrappers for making ravioli. These are found in the refrigerated section of Asian grocery stores. It takes all the effort out of hand made pasta. For a classic filling, try silky smooth pumpkin with a flavour hit from crushed amaretti biscuits.

And I always keep my pantry stocked with tinned tomatoes, anchovies, capers, dried tomatoes and olives, which can be combined for a last minute flavour packed puttanesca.

All three recipes so quick and easy, you’ll whip up dinner in no time at all.

 

Ricotta Gnocchi

Try these delicate fluffy gnocchi and you’ll be hooked. They are much easier and quicker than traditional potato gnocchi. Look out for good quality fresh ricotta.

500g fresh ricotta
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus a little extra to serve
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp salt
1 cup plain flour, plus extra if required
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 punnets cherry tomatoes, quartered
½ cup basil leaves, torn

Place ricotta in a fine sieve over a bowl for 30 minutes to drain off any excess liquid.
Place drained ricotta in a bowl with grated cheese, eggs and salt. Add flour and mix to forma dough. Add a little extra flour if the dough is too sticky and wet. Be careful not to overwork. Divide dough into quarters, and gently roll into 2cm diameter logs on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 2cm pieces and gently place on a lightly floured tray. Press down with back of a fork to make indents in each gnocchi. Continue with remaining dough.
To make the sauce, heat oil, add garlic and cook for a few minutes over medium heat. Add tomatoes and basil and bring to boil. Reduce to low and simmer for 8 minutes.
To cook gnocchi, drop into a saucepan of simmering, lightly salted water and remove as soon as they float to the top, after 1 or 2 minutes. Place in a warmed bowl, top with some tomato sauce and gently mix. Serve with a little extra parmesan.

Serves 4.

Pumpkin ravioli with burnt butter sauce

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No need for a pasta machine for these little ravioli. Simply use wonton wrappers, instead. Amaretti biscuits make a surprise addition to the filling.

 

500g peeled butternut pumpkin, cut in large dice

6 Amaretti biscuits, crushed

½ cup fresh breadcrumbs

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

freshly grated nutmeg

600g packet square wonton wrappers

1 egg, beaten

100g butter

handful sage leaves

½ cup fresh walnut pieces

freshly grated parmesan cheese, to serve

1 lemon, to squeeze

To make filling, cook pumpkin in a steamer or microwave until soft. Place over a sieve to allow any excess liquid to drain.

Mash pumpkin or puree with a stick blender and mix with Amaretti biscuits, breadcrumbs, nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.

Place wonton wrappers on kitchen bench in a single layer. Place a spoonful of filling in the middle. Brush beaten egg around the edges and cover with another wonton wrapper. Press to seal edges and remove any air by gently pressing with a cupped hand. Cut with a ravioli cutter.

To cook ravioli, drop into a saucepan of simmering, lightly salted water and remove as soon as they float to the top, after 2-3 minutes. Place in a warmed bowl and continue until all the ravioli are cooked.

Melt butter in a large pan and fry sage leaves and walnut pieces until fragrant and crisp. Place ravioli in pan and gently toss to coat. Squeeze over lemon juice.

Serve with extra parmesan.

Serves 6.

Makes approx 40 ravioli.

Spaghetti puttanesca

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This homestyle sauce has its origins in Naples. The simple ingredients are pantry staples. It is quick and easy to prepare.

 

 

1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra

1 brown onion, diced

1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped

4 anchovy fillets, chopped

400 g tin chopped tomatoes

200 ml tomato passata

200 ml water

1 tbsp small salted capers, rinsed

½ cup sun dried/ semi dried tomatoes

2 tbsp small black olives

500g dried spaghetti

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to season

grated parmesan cheese to serve

Heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion. Add the chilli, anchovies, tomatoes, passata, water, capers, sundried tomatoes and black olives and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water according to packet directions until al dente.  Drain, reserving half a cup of pasta water. Add sea salt, pepper, and a glug of olive oil to the sauce, and lighten with a little of the pasta water, if needed. Add the pasta and toss well. Serve in warm pasta plates, with grated parmigiano.

Serves 4.