Tag Archives: Slow cooked

A Tale about QUINCES

There is nothing like baked quinces.

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When cooked slowly (4-5 hours) with sugar or /and honey they they transform from an indeterminate dirty cream, pale green colour to a deep coral. They look beautiful, smell good and taste great.

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Resting in their raw state on a bench or in a fruit bowl, they will also deodorize the environment.

In spite of being cooked for such a long time they retain some of their firmness and hold their shape and do not turn squashy like apples or pears.

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It is an autumnal fruit and although we are nearing the end of winter in Melbourne I bought some recently.  Usually when I buy quinces I buy them loose but each one of these  was individually wrapped in paper and packed firmly in a box. They were labelled as Australian. We are a big country and I would imagine that they would still be found in an other part of Australia. I also imagine that because we can store apples and pears successfully, we would be able to keep quinces in cold storage too.

My yearning for quinces this year began in Nottingham. I was there in early May which is not quince season, but as you may know  anything can be bought out of season in the UK from anywhere in the world.

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These quinces came from Morocco and my friend slowly baked them. These were smoother than any quince I had ever seen and much more round. My friend, Pat, is an Australian living in Nottingham and she agreed with me.

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It is easy to see how Pat prepared her quinces – she cut the quinces horizontally and made neat regular hollows removing the core. Then she placed them upright in a ceramic baking dish she had buttered beforehand. She placed honey and small pieces of butter in the hollowed cores and added a little more butter around the quinces.

Cloves, bay leaves, a little sugar and water and surrounded the quinces. She covered them with foil and baked them at about 150C for about 3hours. The foil came off for the last hour. And the quinces in Nottingham were superb!

While we enjoyed an array of British produce and ate warm quinces  with excellent rich  British cream and drinking Italian liqueurs and Scotch, another happening was going on in her front garden, so you can see what season we were heading into in Nottingham.

Poppies @ Pat's

And very close to their house this was going on in the  small river.

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First we met an egret poised to fish on the water’s edge. Then we saw a swan  sitting on a nest … the companion was floating nearby.  Shortly after we left Nottingham, cygnets hatched and made their parents proud.

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Back to quinces in Melbourne Australia.

Here is what ingredients I used and what I did.

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I wiped the fuzz off the quinces and preheated my oven to 140C (fan-forced).

You can basically flavour quinces with whatever takes your fancy.

I wanted to eat the quinces cold and therefore used no butter.

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INGREDIENTS

3 quinces, star anise, cinnamon quills, cloves, black peppercorns, bay leaves.
1 lemon, zest (grated), peel from 3/4 of an  orange – I used a potato peeler.
About 200g sugar, 100g honey.
1 cup of white wine and 1  cup of water.

I put the spices  and peel and the liquid in a baking dish.

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I cut the quinces in half lengthways and lay them in a baking dish, cut side down, skin side  up. I cored them but did not peel them.

Mine didn’t look as good but they too tasted great.

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I then drizzled them with honey and scattered sugar over them. I them made sure that there was sufficient liquid around the sides of the quinces, but not enough to cover them.  I then  used foil to cover them and I baked them for two hours.

I finished off the cooking for another two hours without the foil.  And it is during this time that magic happens and the colour changes .

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I presented my quinces with some homemade  Mascarpone.

And shortly after we left Nottingham and were on our way to Sicily, the Peonies joined the numerous poppies in the front garden. The good weather had arrived.

Pat's poppy?

CAVOLOFIORE AFFOGATO (Cauliflower braised in red wine, cheese and anchovies)

 

Affogato means drowned or smothered or choked in Italian, and which ever way you look at it, in this recipe the cauliflower has been killed off in red wine.

My grandmother Maria was born in Catania and this was one of her ways of cooking cauliflower (called VRUOCCULI AFFUCATI in Sicilian)

The cauliflower is cut into thin slices and assembled in layers: cauliflower, sprinkled with a layer of slivers of pecorino, thinly sliced onion and anchovies. Some recipes also include stoned black olives.

Although the coloured cauliflowers or broccoli can also be used for this recipe, I like the white cauliflower because it becomes rose- tinted by the red wine.

I compress the assembled ingredients, cover it with a circle of baking paper, an ovenproof plate and then put a weight on top (see photo).

It is cooked slowly until all the liquid evaporates and then it can be turned out and sliced like a cake. You may also like to use a non- stick saucepan or as I often do, place a circle of baking paper at the bottom of the pan to ensure that the “cake” does not stick to the bottom. Many recipes add water as the cauliflower is cooking to prevent it from burning, but if you cook it on very gentle heat and in a good quality saucepan with a heavy base, it may not be necessary.

VRUOCCULI AFFUCATI are especially suitable as an accompaniment to a strong tasting dish. Usually it is presented at room temperature or cold (I can remember the left over cauliflower being particularly satisfying as a stuffing for a panino).

INGREDIENTS

cauliflower or broccoli, 1kg
onion, 1large, sliced thinly
pecorino, 50 -100g, sliced thinly
anchovies, 4-5 or more
red wine, 1 glass
extra virgin olive oil, ¾ cup
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

PROCESSES

Place some olive oil in a deep saucepan (the ingredients are layered).
Add a layer of the cauliflower.
Top with the pecorino cheese, anchovies, ground pepper and onion slices (salt to taste).
Add another layer of the cauliflower and more oil.
Continue with more layers but finish off with a layer of cauliflower on top. Press down the layers with your hands.
Top with more oil and add the wine.
Cover the contents first with either a piece of baking paper or foil cut to size and slightly loose. Put a weight on the top so as to keep all of the layers compressed (see above). There should e a gap around the weight and the saucepan to allow the steam to escape.
Cook on very slow heat for about 40-60 minutes and when the liquid has evaporated, you should also hear the cauliflower sizzle in the oil.

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