It is one of the fragrances and tastes I seek out during the autumn. Its nose is pungent with a rosy-nose and an apple/pear-like texture. I am referring to the quince. A somewhat obscure fruit that comes to us via the Middle East and visually could be confused with an apple variety – perhaps that is the mistake Adam made. Though unlike its iconic cousin the quince is not edible raw. It must be sautéed, stewed or steamed in order to make it palatable.
They are ripe when yellow, and it releases a potent redolence that is quite floral. It also has a felty-fuzzy covering its outer skin, which inevitably tickles my nasal cavity as I drink up its smell. It is a small prize to pay for such an exotically delicate flavor.
If you have ever made apple butter you now have the opportunity to make another fabulous paste from the quince. The English and Spanish have a long tradition of using this paste as an accompaniment to a cheddar or manchego cheese – along with some Port and crusty bread I am having a heavenly afternoon.
Quince Upside Down Cake – yields 12
2 quince – peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
4 ounces unsalted butter – at room temerpature
8 ounces ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups chickpea flour
1-teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a 9-inch cake pan or 12 individual 3/4 ounce ramekins evenly distribute the sliced quince – gently packing them in.
In a 2-cup saucepan add the sugar and 1/4-cup of water. Over a high heat melt the sugar and water together, and cook until the sugar turns a light amber. Pour the caramelized sugar over the quince.
In a work bowl beat the butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and the ricotta cheese to thoroughly combine with the butter. Mix in the cream and vanilla extract.
Sift the chickpea flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Then mix the flour mixture into the butter-base. Pour the cake batter over the quince, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes (for individual cakes15 to 20 minutes), or until cake tester inserted comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. While still warm invert the cake and remove the pan. If any quince has stuck to the bottom gently remove to the cake. Cool the cake completely.