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Quinces and Camellias

I look forward to Mother’s Day every year. As well as it being a time to spoil my mum, I have started a family tradition of always having a quince dessert and decorating the table with the Camellia reticulatas that grow so well in my garden. It’s also when the weather gets a bit cooler, so I appreciate the oven being on because quinces can take up to two hours to cook. Then I like to cook for another hour so that I can add the quinces to the batter of an almond cake which I serve with rosewater flavoured whipped cream.

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Quinces grow quite well on our Mountain. My neighbour Robyn has a tree and it produces enough small knobbly fruit to make a few desserts, and I was lucky enough to be given a few.

Have you ever tasted a quince? The first time I tasted one it was in the form of a paste that was served with cheese. I had to find out what it was and I couldn’t believe how a peculiar looking sour fruit could produce such a fragrant, deep pink, delicious paste. Quinces cannot be eaten raw; they are too tart. The first clue that the quince hides something special is its aroma. If you leave a quince on a sunny window sill it will slowly release a delicate fragrance of vanilla, citrus, and apple into your kitchen. It’s a heady, perfumed scent that is completely at odds with its appearance. But the tannins that cause its tartness mellow when cooked and turn the fruit rose coloured and into something quite delicious.

tcs_quinces_camellias-5The way to cook quinces is to peel, cut, and core them into quarters or eighths .Then poach or bake them covered in the oven in sugar syrup (1 cup of sugar to 3 cups of water) with a cinnamon stick and a spoon full of honey and a couple of strips of lemon peel for around an hour and a half; they then become soft and pink. They can be used in any desserts such as crumbles and puddings, or for something exotic, add them to a slow-cooked tagine or casserole.

If you or your neighbour doesn’t have a quince tree, Joseph always has a box full of gorgeous, evocative Australian fruit on his counter all through autumn. The recipe for the almond and quince cake that I like to cook for Mother’s Day can be found at www.taste.com.au.

November 18, 2016 / Uncategorized / thechef