Marmalade was originally made from quinces. In fact, the word ''marmelo'' is the Portuguese word for quince. It was not until the late 18th century that oranges were used. Quinces are too tart to eat raw but when cooked with sugar and other aromatics they take on a beautiful flavour and perfume - a mix of apple and pear. For many years, the fruit was thought to be a relative of the pear. Though pears can be grown on quince rootstock, they are a separate species. Baked quinces are an incredibly easy dessert for a group of friends. The fruits cook slowly in the oven, leaving you free to entertain your guests. The spices in the syrup can be replaced with herbs; lemon verbena or rosemary work well. Finish the dish with a splash of oloroso sherry if you choose. The curd recipe is a delicious alternative to lemon curd and can be enjoyed in a similar way.
150g white sugar
200ml white wine
1 cinnamon stick
4 black peppercorns
2 star anise
4 medium perfumed quinces
½ a lemon
4 tbsp maple syrup
Put the sugar, wine and water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns and star anise. Peel and halve the quinces and rub them with lemon to prevent them from browning. Lower the quinces into the sugar syrup and let them simmer until tender. They may be ready in 25 minutes or perhaps take a little longer, depending on their size and ripeness. Set the oven at 180C. When the fruit is tender to the point of a knife, lift it out and place in a shallow baking dish or roasting tin. Add the maple syrup to the cooking liquid and pour over the quinces. Bake for 30 minutes or until the fruit is very soft and tender. Serve with the cooking juices.
400g quinces, peeled, cored and cut into small pieces
150g unrefined castor sugar
65ml lemon juice
75g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Place chopped quince in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water, bring to boil and cook until quinces are soft. Drain cooked quince and puree while warm to a smooth pulp. Scrape warm quince puree into a heatproof bowl, and rest bowl on a saucepan of simmering water. Make sure the bowl does not touch the water. As the puree heats, whisk together eggs, sugar, salt and lemon juice in a separate bowl. Add egg mixture to puree in the double boiler and cook the mixture for about 20 minutes, or until it has thickened. Stir occasionally and do not overheat; overheated eggs could cause the curd to curdle. Once cooked, cool slightly then add the cold butter and mix until butter dissolves and curd takes on a shiny gloss. Let cool completely, then store in a clean jar in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Makes about 500 grams
Frank's tip: To stop quinces from discolouring, keep them in water with a squeeze of lemon.