Quinces are the star fruit of winter and make it up in taste subtlety and exotic look for the lack of variety available at this time of year. So enjoy them while you can!
A very precious and ancient fruit
Duck legs 4 (or one for each guest)
Water 1 pint
Quinces 2 (peeled and quartered)
Ginger root (1 bitesize)
Clear honey 2 Tbsp
Salt and black pepper
Fresh bunch of coriander
Preheat the oven to 230˚. Rub the duck legs with some of the olive oil, season with salt and pepper then place on a rack. Roast in the oven for about 30 min until the skin is crisp and raised in places.
Pour a pint of water and the juice of one lemon into a pan. Bring to a boil, add the quince quarters and simmer until tender. I left the skin on mine because their skin was thin and lovely but some variety have a thick skin that needs peeling.
Slice the quinces quarters and fry them in olive oil and butter until golden. Reserve.
Take the duck out of the oven and dip some of the fat out into the quinces pan – a couple of spoonfuls. Stir in the grated ginger, honey and cinnamon and fry gently on low heat. Add some more lemon juice. Pour some water to make this into a sauce and let it bubble a few seconds.
Arrange the legs and quinces into a dish and pour the sauce over it. Sprinkle a bit of coriander to serve.
This dish would make a tasty alternative to the traditional Christmas turkey, I reckon. I particularly love the way the quince slices melt in the mouth – one of the nicest ways to serve quinces, at any rate.
Original recipe by Ghillie Basan, a brilliant travel and cookery writer – and friend- who lives in the wilderness of Scotland but whose cooking is infused with middle eastern spices. Her books are a true inspiration for anyone who enjoys Mediterranean flavours and heritage.
Tagine of lamb shanks and quinces
The point of a tagine is melting meat and fragrant spices, slowly cooked in a traditionnally pointy dish with a lid so all the flavours remain as deep and intense as possible.
Ingredients list :
Peel the quinces and cut them in quarters. Boil the quinces in the sugar with the cinnamon bark until the flesh is soft. Put aside.
Lamb shank 1 for each guest
Safran a few strands
Raz el hanout (from moroccan stores)
Salt and pepper
Cinnamon 1 Tbsp
Pinch of Cayenne pepper
Coriander and parsley, 1 small bunch
Chop the onions and brown them in a cooking pot with a bit of olive oil. Add the meat and the herbs, cover with the stock (or water with a stock cube) and cover. Put in the oven for 2 hours at 160˚. Tagines are one of the most fragrant dishes and spices need to be generously used there. Make sure you hit the right level – but not too high !
When the meat is ready, serve with the quinces and pour the warm syrup over the lamb and fruit. Sprinkle the chopped coriander and parsley before serving.
This is a festive dish, perfect for the season and I love the fact that each guest gets its own lamb shank : my favorite lamb cut because it is so moist and tasty…
Beautiful golden quinces from the fruit market!
Take any squash or pumpkin : they are still in season and come in all sorts of beautiful shapes and colours – the one above is called “potimarron” in French and has pretty scalloped edges!
Put it in whole in a hot oven for at least 35 or 45 min. depending on its size. When a knife can easily be inserted and the skin has taken a deep orange colour, remove from the oven.
Carefully cut the top off with a sharp knife as if it was a serving dish with a lid: sprinkle a bit of sea salt and a dash of olive oil on the flesh and serve warm immediately.
It is as stunning a dish as it is delicious and the flesh will scoop out easily, impressing everybody!
Little star Mince pies
For us, there is no Christmas without mince pies! I am making mine now so they are out of the way and ready for when the French cousins arrive: they do keep very well for a few weeks plus they are handy to have if any guest drops in before Christmas !
Ingredients list :
(For the mincemeat)
Goose fat 80g
Granny smith 1 grated (with skin on)
Mix of raisins and currants 300g
Mix candied peel 80g
Dark brown sugar 125g
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange and 1 lemon
Roasted hazelnuts 2 Tbsp
Chopped walnuts 50g
Ground mixed spices 1Tbsp
Ground cinnamon 2 Tbsp
Pinch of grated nutmeg
Capful of rum
Mix all the ingredients together in a plastic container and leave at room temperature for a few days. All the spices and fruit flavour need to mingle and blossom.
Prepare some puff pastry or short-crust one – enough for about 12 small pies and their star shaped lids. I make my own short-crust with almond powder and goose fat – on top of the usual ingredients and it is extra crumbly.
Cut circles and stars with cut-out shapes and place them in a mince pie or muffin tray. Carefully fill each disk with a small spoonful of mince, put the star on top and brush with an egg yolk.
Put in the oven for 30 min. at 170° : Serve warm with brandy butter.
This recipe was inspired by one from Ottolenghi – but I’ve replaced his suet with goose fat because it is healthier and more appropriate for the season!