recipe

Credit: Tara Pearce

Roasted quince with spiced quince cake and whipped ricotta

The days are shorter, the skies are blacker, and winter is upon us. The vestiges of late autumn fruit still linger at the greengrocer.

If you are not a preserver but have pantry shelves lined with quinces for “tomorrow”, there is still time to indulge until this seasonal fruit disappears for another year. These recipes form a complete dish, but each recipe can stand on its own or be used with other things.

I go through various phases when it comes to cooking quinces. Early in the season I like to poach them lightly on the stove and leave them a light pinky-orange. The flavour is more perfumed, astringent and delicate. Later in the season I tend to cook them in the oven, for a long time. The longer and slower they are cooked, the deeper the ruby red colour becomes, befitting the colder, darker days.

This cake is a perfect cake for keeping in a tin. As we desperately try to lessen our use of plastic containers, remember the use of old biscuit tins and their place in our collective childhood memories. This is just the right cake to nestle in an inverted tin lid – it is lightly spiced and stays moist for days. The roasted quince can also be replaced with poached pear, apple or even preserved ginger if you don’t fancy quince.

The ricotta, lightly sweetened and flavoured like this, can be used as a garnish for cake, a filling for cannoli shells, an addition to poached fruit, or even a sweet “dip” with crostoli.

If only for a moment, the smell of this cake cooking will distract you from the winter chill if you are a summer lover, and if you love the cold weather, it will excite you about the joys of winter cooking to come.

Roasted quince with spiced quince cake and whipped ricotta

Serves 8

Roasted quince

– 1kg sugar

– 1 litre water

– 1 vanilla bean, split lengthways and seeds scraped

– 1 cinnamon stick

– 12 quinces, peeled and halved

Spiced quince cake

– 250g self-raising flour

– 2½ tsp quatre épices

– 1 tsp baking powder

– pinch of flaked salt

– 200g golden syrup

– 2 tbsp quince syrup (from roasting the quinces)

– 125g unsalted butter

– 100g diced roasted quince

– 125g dark brown sugar

– 2 large eggs

– 240ml milk

Whipped ricotta

– 250g fresh ricotta

– 1 tbsp golden castor sugar, or to taste

– 2 tbsp pouring cream

– finely grated zest of ½ lemon

– finely grated zest of ½ orange

To make the roasted quince, preheat the oven to 120ºC.

Put the sugar, water and spices in a large saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Place the quince halves, cut side up, in a baking dish large enough to fit them snugly in a single layer. Pour the sugar syrup over the top. If you don’t have enough syrup to cover the quinces, make a little more using equal quantities of sugar and water. Cover with a sheet of baking paper and then seal the baking dish with foil. Place in the oven and roast for at least six hours or until the quinces are dark purple and tender. Remove from the oven.

The quinces can be kept in their cooking syrup in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. Before you use them, remove the core with a teaspoon.

To make the spiced quince cake, preheat the oven to 180ºC. Line the base of a 20-centimetre square cake tin with baking paper.

Sift the flour, quatre épices and baking powder into a large bowl and add the salt. Put the golden syrup, quince syrup and butter in a small saucepan and warm over a low heat. Add the diced quince and sugar and let the mixture bubble gently for a minute, giving it the occasional stir to stop the fruit sticking to the bottom.

Break the eggs into a bowl, pour in the milk and beat gently to break up the egg and mix it into the milk. Remove the butter and sugar mixture from the heat and pour it into the flour, stirring firmly with a large metal spoon. Mix in the milk and eggs. The mixture should be sloppy, with no trace of flour.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then invert onto a sheet of baking paper laid on a wire rack. The cake may be served warm or kept in a tin and served at room temperature. It will keep well in the tin for up to five days.

To make the whipped ricotta, place all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk together until stiff and well combined. Taste before serving – you can vary the amount of sugar to your personal taste.

To assemble the dessert, I cut a long thin piece of cake, prop half a warmed quince up against it and then place a quenelle of the whipped ricotta on one end of the cake.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jun 8, 2019 as "Noble warming". Subscribe here.

Annie Smithers
is the owner and chef of du Fermier in Trentham, Victoria. She is a food editor of The Saturday Paper.