Poached Quinces with Sour Cherries and Clotted Cream

Ayva Tatlisi

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You could have eaten this dish 2000 years ago in Anatolia. The world’s first cherry growing and the world’s first quince growing happened there. Writings from 72 BC discuss how the military leader Lucullus brought a cultivated cherry to Rome from a part of the empire called Pontus in northeastern Anatolia. The Romans at the time were happy to combine it with their quinces stewed in honey.

The Ottoman chefs made a habit of stewing fruits with sugar syrup and combining them with kaymak. The secret here is to cook very slowly and include the skins and the cores of the quinces while simmering, to enhance the pink colouring the Ottomans loved.

Ingredients

  • 100 g ( oz/½ cup) frozen sour cherries
  • 4 quince(s)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 cloves
  • 660 g (1 lb 7 oz/3 cups) sugar
  • 16 walnut kernels
  • 125 g ( oz/½ cup) kaymak (or thick/(double) cream)

Method

Take the cherries out of the freezer about 1 hour before you want to serve the dish.

Peel the skin off the quinces and reserve the skin. Halve the peeled quinces, lengthways, and remove the hard cores. Reserve the cores.

Put the lemon juice and 1 litres (35 fl oz/4 cups) of water in a bowl. This will stop the quinces from going brown.

Lay the quince skins, shiny side down, in the bottom of a wide saucepan. Place the cinnamon stick, cloves and cores on top. Put the quinces, cut side up, on top of the spices. Put 3 tablespoons of the sugar on each quince half. Pour 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) of water into the pan around the quinces, being careful not to cover the quinces or wash the sugar off. Put the lid on the pan and simmer for 1 hour until the quinces are pink and soft.

Mix 110 g ( oz/½ cup) of the sugar with about 25 sour cherries. Take the lid off the pot and place three cherries in each half quince. Cover again and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 30 minutes—with the lid off if the quinces are soft, lid on if the quinces are still slightly firm.

Place the quinces on a serving platter. Put two walnuts on top of each quince.

Add a dollop of kaymak or thick cream on top of each quince. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of the cooking liquid over the quinces and serve.