Tamsin Carvan’s quince recipes
THEY SAY THAT GOOD THINGS COME TO THOSE WHO WAIT, AND TAMSIN CARVAN IS CLEARLY REAPING REWARDS FOR HER PATIENT APPROACH TO PREPARING QUINCES.
It is entirely to their credit that quinces will not be rushed. They are among the last of the fruits to ripen on our southern victorian farm (in good company with the pomegranates and the figs), having spent a good chunk of spring, a whole summer and a bit of autumn slowly and contemplatively completing their transformation from those glorious, generous blossoms through to uninviting, hard, green and furry fruit culminating in a fragrant, smooth-skinned, pale-gold beauty. Once ripe they are in no particular rush to go anywhere, being quite content to hang on the tree for weeks (birds permitting), waiting for the day when the necessary hours can be set aside to make quince paste, or place them in a slow wood stove to cook overnight on a declining heat. It takes slow, patient, gentle cooking to call forth the quince’s inner beauty, and start her on the journey from hard, sour, white and grainy to deep pink, amber or even crimson, sticky, hauntingly fragrant, and perfectly sweet and sour. Although many of the old farm orchards around here include at least one gnarled, majestic quince tree, somewhere along the way they fell out of fashion and it can be hard to find top-quality fruit, actually any fruit, in the shops, which is the perfect reason to grow your own. Champion and Smyrna are the two most common quince varieties, and the kinds we grow here, but dig a little deeper into the catalogues and you will find De Bourgeaut, a richly flavoured and coloured French variety, Van de Man and Fullers, both of which have no grittiness in the flesh, and Powell’s Prize, thought to be an Australian variety. (All of these can be found at Woodbridge Fruit Trees, a small, family-owned nursery in southern Tasmania, which holds a captivating collection of heritage varieties.) Although quinces have light- to deep-golden skin when fully ripe, they are usable once the skin changes from a deep to pale yellow-y green — at this point they are very high in pectin, and perfect for jellies and pastes.at all stages of ripeness care needs to be taken when preparing them as the flesh is hard and not entirely conducive to easy cutting or peeling. Last year, seized with despondency and aching hands as I stared down at the boxes and boxes yet to prepare, I gave up peeling and coring them entirely. I found that the texture and crunch from the seeds, cores and even stems added a welcome contrast to the soft flesh, while yielding more time to be spent on that long, slow cooking, and best of all, for gazing on the jewel-like colours and sumptuous textures that are reward aplenty for your labours.* Cook, blogger and accomplished gardener Tamsin Carvan hosts cooking workshops and seasonal lunches at her farm at Poowong East in Victoria’s Gippsland. For information, visit tamsinstable.com.au
Windfall pie (recipe page 80)