Spice-poached quinces

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I love the flavour of quince, whether it’s poached, as in this recipe, or slow-roasted to ruby perfection in the oven. It’s a sweetly perfumed fruit that does take a little bit of time to cook, but the rewards are great.

I have to admit that I also buy quinces for decorative purposes. As soon as they appear in the market, I buy a large bag, of which half is cooked and half is piled into a bowl and put out for display. Their sunny yellowness always makes me smile and they smell amazing.

Ingredients

  • 110 g ( oz/½ cup) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthways
  • 3 large quinces
  • whipped cream, to serve

Method

Put the sugar, honey, bay leaves, star anise and vanilla bean in a saucepan with 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) water. Stir over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.

Peel the quinces, then cut each one into eighths and core the segments. Add the quince segments to the syrup and add enough water to ensure the quinces are covered in the syrup. Dampen a piece of baking paper with water and press it over the quinces.

Cook over medium heat until the syrup comes to a slow simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan with a lid and cook for a further 3½ hours, removing the bay leaves after the first hour. When cooked, the quince segments should be soft and the syrup and quinces should be a wonderful rose colour.

Serve the quinces with whipped cream and almond bread or spiced biscotti. Drizzle some of the quince syrup over the cream.