recipe

Credit: Photography: Earl Carter

Quince charming

This quince recipe is simple enough, although it does take some time. That is the rule when poaching quinces: the slower the better. But the finished poached quinces can be used for a number of preparations.

The sweet wedges of poached quince work well with game. They are also great served with sautéed chicken livers or pâté or a slice of terrine. Partridge, to choose one bird, is traditionally served with quince sauce.

I like to place the sliced quince in a food dehydrator for a few hours to develop a giving but chewy texture. I have served it with roast pigeon in the restaurant, and we make a sauce with the poaching liquid, adding vinegar and game stock.

Another favourite sweet quince preparation is quince frangipane tart: 160 grams of butter beaten with 160 grams of sugar until creamy, to which 160 grams of ground almonds, two tablespoons flour and two eggs are added. This almond mixture is then spread out in the base of a cooked tart shell and topped with large wedges of quince. After being cooked for about half an hour at 180ºC you have a delicious thing indeed.

A perfectly ripe quince releases a scent that should be bottled; sadly this perfume is evident but not as pronounced when the quinces are cooked. But it’s nice to leave the quinces on the bench for a few days before cooking to catch this aroma.

Like most comfort foods, the way porridge is cooked and finished is a personal thing. Porridge is often made with a number of grains and seeds other that oats. Millet, flax, barley, rye, quinoa or buckwheat can supplement the oats or replace them completely. Due to my heritage and upbringing, however, pure oat-based porridge is the only variety I can stomach. I don’t usually dress the porridge with fruit either, but from time to time I do like the flavour of quince. Subtle enough for the oats and in keeping with my simple morning needs.

Instant porridge does not cut it. I find it offers little to no flavour and a rather offensive texture. Whole rolled oats are the go. The longer, slower cooking of the porridge does produce a slightly nutty flavour and good texture, and the tradeoff is only about five minutes. Rolled oats speed up the cooking time, but if you choose to use unrolled oats, allow about half an hour of cooking.

The constant stirring of the porridge while cooking is key and a traditional cooking implement for this is a spurtle, which was specifically designed for stirring porridge. Made from hardwood, it is a fascinating instrument and word. If you can’t get hold of a spurtle, a favourite wooden spoon will suffice.

The real advantage of oats for breakfast is its slow release, making you feel fuller for longer. Physically and psychologically, porridge gets me though the Melbourne winter. The whisky is added for further therapy.

Poached quince and porridge

Serves four with some poached quince to spare

– 500g white sugar
– 500g soft brown sugar
– 1.2 litres water
– 6 quinces peeled
– 1 vanilla bean, split in half
– 1 orange, zested
 – 1 lemon, zested

Preheat your oven to 110ºC.

In a stainless steel saucepan large enough to fit all the quinces bring the sugars and water to a simmer. Add the vanilla and citrus zests and remove from the heat. Peel the quinces and halve before placing in the sugar syrup. Bring the quinces to the simmer and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Place in the oven and cook for six to eight hours.

Porridge

I worked with a Scottish lad for several years. Each morning in the winter he would cook for the whole brigade the most delicious porridge I have ever eaten. His secret for a creamy even-textured porridge was to stand and stir the porridge continuously, as you would a risotto. He believed that this developed a creamier, smoother-textured finish. I concur.

– 1 cup water
– 1 cup milk
– 1 cup organic rolled oats
– 1 tsp honey
– pinch of salt
– 1 shot of whisky per person (optional)

Bring the water and milk to a simmer. Add the oats and honey. Continue to cook until the oats have thickened. If the oats need more cooking and have thickened up too much, add a little water until you reach your desired “doneness”. Stir through the salt.

Drink pairing:

Glenrothes Select Reserve Scotch whisky (700ml, $75)

– Mark Williamson, sommelier, Cumulus Inc

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Apr 25, 2015 as "Quince charming". Subscribe here.

Andrew McConnell
is the executive chef and co-owner of Cutler & Co and Cumulus Inc.

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