autumn + poached quinces

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Last night, Aaron and I returned from five days in the south west countryside; namely Balingup and Margaret River. It was the most beautiful of weeks.

Despite having loose plans to do a bit of drawing, writing and design work, we spent the rest of our days doing… well, very little. We slept in, took Loki for walks, picked fresh herbs from the garden, cooked and drank wine in the dappled shade. Frosty nights were met with hand-knitted blankets, hot bread and long, steaming baths by candlelight (in a claw foot beauty, no less).

Can’t get much better than that.

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Anyway, as I was saying, we’re now back home. Despite booking a five night stay, the almost-week disappeared in a snap.

As I write, I’m back in my familiar position on our lounge room couch, fingers curled around a mug of steaming green tea. Loki reclines beside me, determinedly gnawing at a plastic bone. My computer touchpad clicks incrementally, interspersed by the sound of Aaron in the kitchen. He’s cooking noodles on our gas stovetop as I edit photographs of heaving chestnut trees and frosted windows. Not a bad deal, methinks.

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As I work, I dream. Mostly of fresh figs, plump and fragrant, sap dripping from split stalks onto my eager skin. Bush walks on cold mornings, the crunch of dry gum leaves, red dirt caking the soles of my shoes.

The week that was, and suddenly wasn’t; it’s a memory now. Halcyon days amongst the trees. Luckily, thanks to generous countryfolk, we haven’t returned from our travels empty handed.

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Over the past few days, we’ve come across a glut of fruit trees (pomegranate, quince, fig and the tiniest golden pears) and plenty of rambling woody herbs. As the house we rented had a beautifully equipped country kitchen, I had a field day with the local produce, grilling plenty of figs and cracking my own needle-spiked chestnuts to reveal their shiny brown interiors. I fried potatoes with rosemary, picked a walnut (unfortunately the feathered locals ate the rest) and roasted sweet pears with a drizzle of local honey.

But best of all, I found quince. A reclining, heaving tree of them, golden fruit draped from long, gnarled branches. With permission from our kindly host, I picked six knobbly globes (much to the curiosity of Loki, who sniffed each and every one), piling them into a wicker basket before returning to the kitchen.

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That afternoon, I made a light sugar syrup, heady with sweet citrus and star anise (inspired by the dreamy words of Heidi).

After a dinner of pesto chicken with feta and local pomegranate, Aaron and I snuggled on the couch to watch reruns of Scrubs, enveloped in a warm cloud of poaching quince.

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The following morning, we ate quince for breakfast, glistening atop old fashioned porridge. We covered the ruby gems with a blanket of cold, frothy cream and a sprinkling of toasted hazelnuts – autumn in a bowl.

Over the next few days, I ate a few more wedges with yoghurt, usually sitting on the timber deck amongst the trees. When it was finally time to pack for home, I tucked the rest of the ruby-hued fruit into the chiller bag against the milk, cheese and salted butter. It’s now sitting comfortably in our refrigerator, ready for warm country breakfasts over the next week.

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Although I tell myself that we’re going to savour the rest of the poached quince quite slowly and thoughtfully, to ‘keep it special’ and all that, I’m kind of kidding myself. In fact, as I finish this post, I’m craving another keen wedge covered in thick Greek yoghurt with a sprinkle of sunflower seeds…

All in all, I’m not ready for my country life to end (anyone else got a quince tree I can raid?).

Happy Autumn, folks x

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Poached Quinces

Adapted from this recipe by Heidi (which was adapted from the wonderful Stephanie Alexander’s book, The Cook’s Companion) and this recipe from Australian Gourmet Traveller

You will need a wide, lidded ovenproof pan (that actually fits into your oven; check it first!) for this recipe. 

  • 6 raw quince (~1.4kg, weighed whole and unpeeled)
  • 1.5 cups caster sugar
  • 7 cups water
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved
  • 1 cinnamon stick (quill)
  • 2 pieces of thinly peeled orange rind

Preheat your oven to 130 degrees C (266 degrees f).

Prepare the syrup: place the water and sugar into a wide ovenproof pan and bring to the boil over high heat. Simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Turn off the heat and add the vanilla bean, orange rind, star anise and cinnamon quill. Set aside.

Prepare the quince: peel the quince. With a sharp knife, cut the peeled fruit into quarters or sixths. Carefully cut out the cores, then gently place the fruit into the prepared sugar syrup. Cover with a cartouche (see image below) then return the pan to the heat. Bring to a simmer and then cover with the lid.

syrupcartoucheTransfer the pan into your preheated oven and cook until the quince are your desired tenderness and colour (long and slow is the game. I’d suggest 5-6 hours for a medium ruby colour, 7-9 hours for soft, fragrant, deep burgundy quince). To achieve the same result as me, cook for 9 hours and then leave the pan in the oven to cool completely overnight.

done

For an autumnal breakfast, we served the poached quince with some toasted hazelnuts and cream atop old fashioned porridge. However, the ruby red poached fruit lends itself beautifully to an upside down cake, crumble or tarte tartin, particularly with a dollop of cream, custard or mascarpone.

The easiest way to eat poached quince is simply in a bowl with a big spoonful of Greek yoghurt (like I did this afternoon) accompanied by crushed roasted almonds, hazelnuts or toasted sunflower seeds. So, so good.

basketStorage: this quince will keep in the sugar syrup for up to one week in the refrigerator (stored in a canning jar or airtight container). If you desire to keep your quince for up to one month, I’d suggest going with a more concentrated sugar syrup (2 parts water to one part sugar; that would be 2.3 cups sugar for this recipe). Keep the syrup once all your quince are gone, reduce it down over heat and drizzle over vanilla ice-cream. Absolutely delicious.

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40 responses

  1. Wow, those quinces look wonderful. I am envious of your autumn break. It’s still pretty hot and humid here in Brisbane. But I did see some quinces for sale at my fruit shop yesterday and I think I might just head back there tomorrow and get some to make this recipe. I really like the idea of the hazelnuts with the quinces. Thanks so much for sharing. margaret

    • Thanks so much Margaret! The hazelnuts really complimented the quinces – particularly when served with creamy oats. Very earthy, warming, autumn at its finest :) Hope that it cools down in Brissy soon, I’m not a fan of humidity and I can imagine that a few hours of oven cooking (for this recipe) would NOT be fun in that heat! Hope you enjoy the recipe though, if you do get a chance to make it xx

    • This seems like your kind of recipe Sandra! Thanks so much! Now that I’m back home I have lots of time to look after my little spelt sourdough starter (I think I need to name it…) AND time to do a IMK for April! Lots of fun ahead xx

    • Aw, thanks so much lovely! I hadn’t prepared quince myself prior to last week, it’s much easier than I expected! Such a delicious fruit. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for them every autumn now :)

      • Also just a quick message to say that I had a read of a few of your blog posts (the panforte is gorgeous and your nephew seems like such a character!) but I don’t seem to be able to comment :( I’ve tried a few times and tried to change my browser settings but it still won’t process. I’m wondering if others have had the same problem (just so you know!) xx

  2. It will be a long time before it’s autumn here and quince arrives back in our market. Such an unusual food, and so really used… I loved hearing about your week in the south!

    • Thanks David! Such a weird thing to be living in opposite seasons, you’re moving into summer food whilst I’m finding warm recipes with lots of spice! I do love autumn fruits so it was such a bonus to find the quince tree at our holiday accommodation. So delicious!

    • If you do, I’m coming over to raid your garden! Wish it was my own property. That’s the dream one day, to have a productive veggie patch, fruit trees, maybe a cow and some chickens… ;) Thanks Tux!

  3. Your few days sound magical! We too just took my days off and headed to the Pacific NW and like you wondered where the days went. It was nice though, short and sweet. Now, it’s back to the grind stone.
    The poached quince are gorgeous! Look at the colour on them!
    What sounds even more delicious is the ways you have eaten them…so good.

    Glad you had a wonderful break. Now you guys are headed into autumn and we are beginning our spring time. In Colorado, Spring just arrived this week. Our cherry blossom trees are blooming and the shops and finally showing signs of some life. I noticed my back yard today…all that snow that fell 2 weeks ago had finally melted and our grass is lush green! Yay, for not having to water!
    Hope you’re well, Laura. xx

    • Nazneen!!! Hello lovely! Sorry it’s been so long since I last visited, I have gotten so out of sync with blogging, I’m attempting to get into the swing of my own posts again but still need to get back to my reading. Glad that you’re going ok and that you managed to have a break in the Northwest! Funny how quickly holidays disappear isn’t it. Your backyard sounds gorgeous, I must check back in at Coffee and Crumpets to see what you’re up to!
      Enjoy your springtime, sending you hugs xxx

    • It’s beautiful isn’t it! Love quince. Unfortunately the tree is not mine, it was a place we were staying at for a few days but I loved it nonetheless. Sorry to hear you can’t really grow them where you are (are you able to get some fruit from any local markets?) x

    • Oh that’s awesome Conor, love the blogging culture of swapping and gifting! I haven’t heard of Linda’s blog, I’ll have to take a look. As for the quince, I think I’m going to prepare some every autumn now. So delicious.

  4. Hi Laura! This is a beautiful post top to bottom. My favorite photo was the perfect quince on the window ledge. And loved getting to hear about your lovely week away. It sounds so tranquil and restorative. So glad for you… xox

  5. Pingback: in my kitchen + april « Laura's Mess

  6. Gosh I love autumn but it’s been quite delayed here in Melbourne. It was beautiful today though and I would looooove to be able to go somewhere and pick some chestnuts but so far my pickin’s would be at a supermarket. Looove roast chestnuts and I’m determined to make them a lot this year but of course that means I have to go buy one of those roast chestnut opening gadget thingies… The poached quince looks fab! My grandmother was big on quinces and I never really liked them but now in my older wiser years I like them a lot :)

    • Such a beautiful time of year isn’t it!! Yep, I hadn’t tried quince prior to this year but I think I’m going to poach a big batch every autumn from now on! So delicious, really unique and old school. I adore chestnuts, this was my first time picking them and I was absolutely intrigued by the spikyness (defence mechanism?!) of the cases. Definitely easier to get them in their normal brown shells from the market though, haha. Thanks for the lovely words! Happy chestnut roasting! x

  7. Oh how nice to catch up with a few of your posts! It’s been a while! I am about to plant a few fruit trees at long last, including a quince, alas, probably a bit of a wait to harvest any. I had a rental in Bassendean ages ago with a quince tree – score! Can I be sneaky and ask where you stayed? It sounds amazing and Im thinking of a weekend away. xx

    • Sorry to be replying so late Ali, argh… work has been crazy over the past few weeks so I’ve been neglecting the blog. Exciting re the fruit trees, yay! It’ll pay off in time (I am so bad at waiting for things to grow and establish, haha… the worst kind of gardener!). I’ll send you the details of our accommodation in a private msg, it’s a great place x

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