A perfumed fruit that harbours flavours of apple and pear, quince belies its humble appearance. The fruit are harvested from October or November, then kept to mature for six weeks. Stored correctly in a cool, dark and dry place they will keep up to three months.
Ethnic food stores are a great place to gather quince, and whilst many will preserve these luscious fruit (their high level of pectin makes them an excellent component for jam), increasingly cooks are using this winter fruit to enhance seasonal dishes – in sauces with game and other meat, in cakes, pastries and crumbles. They are popular in Mediterranean cuisine. From the classic Spanish quince paste (membrillo) to Persian stews.
In this recipe, we have created a gluten-free crumble (using quinoa and gluten-free oats). The dish is also vegan friendly, using coconut oil rather than butter to bind the grains and a lighter dose of sugar in the crumble.
Poaching the quince in a heady mix of sweet spices - saffron, cinnamon and star anise gives a delicate but definite flavour of the orient. It is well complemented by the addition of pistachio in the crumble mix. We turned our crumble upside down so the topping became the base to allow the soft yellow-hued quince to shine in this lighter version of a classic winter comfort pudding.
Any leftover crumble topping will keep in a sealed container in the fridge and serve as an easy impromptu dessert idea – we’ve used it to top baked fig and blackberry in the past.