Quince season is here and now’s the time to enjoy these quirky-looking fruits to the fullest. By making these zesty poached quinces with lemon, ginger and cardamom, for example, to spoon over your breakfast porridge, use as a tart filling or serve to lift your snack platter to another level.
Inviting as they may smell and look when nice and ripe, quinces are rock-hard and inedible when raw. It’s when they’re cooked that their natural sweet and rosy flavour suddenly becomes apparent. Slowly poaching them is an ideal way to prepare them. You can do this in plain water, but things become infinitely more fun and tasty when you add extra flavours to match your taste, mood and the dishes you want to serve them with.
Quinces pair well with quite a number of flavours. Think sweet and rosy spices, like cinnamon, star anise, vanilla and rose water, but also fresh and zesty ones, like citrus fruits and cardamom, or even bold and hearty flavours, like black pepper and bay leaves. Let your creativity loose; just keep in mind you want to complement the flavour of the quinces, not overpower it.
When I picked up the first quinces of the season, I poached them in two batches using different combinations of added flavours. I intended to pick one favourite and write down the recipe, but as soon as I smelled the wonderful fragrances rising up from the two pans, I knew I didn’t want to choose after all. Though completely different, both batches turned out equally delicious and it would be a pity not to share them both. So if you’re in the mood for a festive, boozy, warm-spiced quince compote, you’ll find the recipe here. And for those days when you like your fruit to be fresh, zesty and uplifting, do try the one below, featuring fresh ginger, cardamom and lots of lemon.
In this one I poached the quinces in a light lemon flavoured syrup. The cardamoms and lemon peel both add extra citrussy notes, while fresh ginger gives the whole thing a warming kick. A cinnamon stick for sweetness and I’ll be bold enough to say happiness is guaranteed. Now simply let your fruit simmer away and watch it turn from pale yellow to a beautiful natural pink.
Cooking your fruit like this will actually leave you with two treats in one go. First, a batch of beautifully flavoured poached quinces to savour with breakfast or ice-cream, or serve with hearty dishes and bites. And second, a pan filled with pretty pink, quince and spices infused poaching liquid. You can reduce the liquid to a syrupy sauce to drizzle over the fruit, but it also makes a delicious base for homemade quince jelly. If you intend to use the liquid for that, keep an eye out and simmer the fruit until just tender and not overcooked, so the liquid stays nice and clear. Cooking the fruit with the skin still on, or tipping the peels and seeds into the pan alongside the quince pieces releases the pectin they contain, which will help the jelly to set more easily. You can find the easy step-by-step guide for making quince jelly here.
I hope you’ll love this recipe as much as I do. And if you have favourite flavours to pair with quinces, I’d love to hear them!
Poached quinces with ginger and cardamom
If you have the time and the patience, this recipe will yield the prettiest and most flavourful result if you start a day ahead.
The listed ingredients make enough compote to serve 4 people. After draining, it yields about 500 ml of poaching liquid. If you want to use this to make quince jelly afterwards, depending on the method you use, you may want to double the ingredients to have enough flavoured liquid to make 1 or 2 good jarfuls.
- 2 large quinces, rinsed and polished with a cloth to remove any remains of the white felty layer on the skins
- 500 ml water
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 200 g sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- thumb-size piece of ginger, sliced
- 6 cardamoms, cracked to open slightly
Start by getting the poaching liquid ready. Add the water, sugar and the lemon zest and juice to a pan. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the cinnamon, ginger slices and cardamoms, then turn down the heat and keep the liquid at a low simmer.
Using a sharp knife, halve and core the quinces. Cut the quince halves into slices. You can either leave the skin on for easy removal after poaching, or skin the quinces now. Tip the quince slices into the poaching liquid immediately to prevent them from discolouring. If you intend to turn the poaching liquid into quince jelly afterwards, retain the peels and intact seeds. Bag them in a muslin bag for easy removal and add them to the quince slices in the pan.
Over a low heat, simmer the quince slices until just tender. This may take anything between 20 minutes and 2 hours. Simply keep an eye out and regularly test a slice for doneness by pricking it with a fork.
When the quince slices are done, take them off the heat. Leave to cool completely, then store in the fridge overnight. This will give the flavours extra time to develop and make the quince and syrup turn a lovely pink.
When ready to use, lift the quince slices from the poaching liquid using a slotted spoon. Peel them if you haven’t yet, then use the poached quinces to top ice cream, oatmeal or quinoa porridge, or pair them with almond yogurt and granola.
The poaching liquid can be reduced to a syrupy sauce to pour over your breakfast bowl or dessert. Alternatively, it can be turned into a fragrant quince jelly, with this easy recipe.