Monday, June 2, 2008

The Case of the Ugly Apple

The last few days have been a little harsh. I was out doing bad, bad things on Friday night and didn't stop until it was nearing sunrise. I'm still in recovery two days later. Night lights glare like blinding midday sun and the slightest of noises reverb in my ears like the sound of giant pounding feet.
I'm finding it difficult to concentrate with my thoughts spinning off onto all sorts of completely irrelevant tangents. This must be akin to what a goldfish experiences every day of it's piteous life.
On the upside, I was able to see some great friends and make a few more so it's not completely unjustifiable torture that I'm putting myself through. It's been a while since I've had this much irresponsible fun (not to that say I was irresponsible..) and right now I feel like total shit but goddamnit! Let's do it again!
I'm going to say something very deep and meaningful here.
"Life is a lot like eating."
My experiences depend completely and utterly on the things which I choose to indulge in. I may be a total work-obsessed food nerd who refuses to go for drinks after shifts but let me just say this. Life is meant to be fun, isn't it?

There are a great many varieties of fun and interesting food combinations when it comes to fruit. Take wild strawberry and cardamom for example, mixed with a little brown sugar and aged balsamic vinegar with a little extra virgin olive oil. The eucalypt-like aroma of the crushed cardamom seeds will lift the strawberry salad with renewed vitality. There's also the combination of raspberry and cumin. Try a few cooked raspberry seeds if you don't believe me and you'll know what I mean. They taste suspiciously similar and make a strangely good pair.

­One I work with on a regular basis at the moment is quince with white peppercorns. It's an orgasmic experience to eat thin slices of quince that have been poaching gently for hours in a sugary syrup laden with cinnamon, anise and peppercorns. You'll detect the gentle sweetness at first, then the natural tartness of the fruit will emerge as it melts over your tongue, and to finish, you'll relish the burst of pepper that takes over your senses.
To make it worth your while, you'll want to use at least a kilo of quinces. Scrub them under running water to remove any furry pubescent bits. Have a bowl full of acidulated water ready to place your quinces in once you've peeled them to slow down their discolouration.
Start by chopping off both ends of each quince and following the curves with a knife, peel away the skins from top to bottom, keeping the peels in a separate bowl as you go. Halve and quarter each one then deftly remove the core, keeping these also.
Once all of the quinces are ready and waiting in acidulated water, make up enough sugar syrup to cover them using 2 parts sugar to 3 parts water. Together in a large pot, throw in a few cinnamon quills, a couple of whole star anise, a small handful of white peppercorns and a good pinch of cooking salt. Bring it to the boil with all of the quince trimmings. Pop a lid on it and let it simmer away for as long as humanly possible. 3 1/2 hours from the time it boils will give you a beautifully deep and richly spiced mahogany-coloured elixir. Remember to give it a stir every now and then and to top up the water level as it reduces.

Place the quartered quince pieces into a deep roasting tray and carefully strain your syrup over the top. Pick out all the spices you can save and add them to the tray. Gently squeeze any remaining liquid from the soft scraps but don't be too rough or you'll cloud the syrup with mushy pulp.

Lay a paper cartouche over the top and cover the whole thing with aluminium foil. Pop it in a preheated oven at 140ÂșC for approximately 3 hours.

­Now you can relax and pick at the intensely flavoured scraps of peel as you wait for what is yet to come.

Test with a knife and when the largest pieces are cooked through, remove the tray from the oven, lose the foil and set it aside to cool down. When cool, slide it into the refrigerator, still steeped in the spicy syrup to permeate overnight.
In the morning, when you wake up ravished and cannot refrain from a taste any longer, take a piece, slice it thinly and sprinkle a little coarsely ground white pepper over the top. Oh and afterwards, don't forget to leave me a message reminding me of just how much you love me.


  1. I love quinces. This sounds like a great recipe. I am saving it for sure.

  2. Here's an approximation of ingredients which you might find useful :)

    10 medium quinces
    1200g castor/superfine sugar
    2000g water
    4 star anise
    4 cinnamon quills
    20g white peppercorns
    20g cooking salt


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