Monday, November 05, 2007

Quince and Pheasant

This time last year there were quince in the market, small versions of the big French ones you can sometimes buy, and I bought them and made an effort at membrillo. The fruits were hard, difficult to peel, impossible to core and chop, and splashes of boiling conserve kept stinging my forearm as I stirred the paste. It was sort of ok, a mellow terracotta colour, but not great.

This year someone gave me a whole bag of little quince from their tree. They don’t look at all like the usual fruit and, small and knobbly, I knew there would be nothing left if I started in to peel, core, etc. So I put them in the pan whole, half covered with water on a low heat and, knowing it would take ages for them to soften, went about my business elsewhere. Less than half an hour later the house was filling with a rich perfume and I bounded into the kitchen to find the whole fruits blossoming soft in a reducing liquid. I put them through a sieve, leaving behind the pips and the skins and the gritty bits that feel like toe nail clippings, and found I had a wonderful sunny puree. As I hadn’t added anything to the poaching liquid I added sugar to taste, and some lemon juice, which may preserve the colour, or may not, I don’t know.

I’m amazed. This puree is tart and fruity and would make a lovely sorbet, or a stunning ice cream, or a filling for little tiny tartlets, or…just about anything. But tonight it is going to add zing to a newly shot pheasant (mind your fillings).

The pheasant recipe is embarrassingly easy:

Preheat the oven to 200ÂșC

Liberally cover the base of a shallow, lidded casserole dish with olive oil, herbs (fresh or dried, but lots) and seasoning.
Half or quarter some waxy potatoes and turn them in the oil.
Joint your pheasant, musing on how you might have been a damn good surgeon.
Season the joints and place on top of the potatoes.
Chop an onion roughly, chop a couple of cloves of garlic finely, scatter over pheasant.
Season again, add more herbs, splash on some more oil.
Cover and cook in the oven for an hour.
Uncover for last ten minutes to allow to brown.

Serve with something green and a spoonful of the fabulous quince puree.


Susan in Italy said...

Ooh! Pheasant with quince puree, that sounds unbeatable! I have found the baking whole quinces (even the normal large kind) makes peeling and coring very easy.

lindy said...

I don't generally get a chance at fresh quinces, but I love them. Don't they smell great? It is as if they come already spiced. This sounds just delicious.

June said...

With the leftover puree I made some wonderful conserve - it's not really jam and it's not jelly, but it's sort of jam-like. I discovered that quince are the original ingredients for marmalade, rather than bitter oranges, and they make a great fruity sharp wake up call for toast.

June said...

I think these little sunny quinces are the chaenomeles species, which we know as the Japanese quince. I used to have one, low growing, red flowers, spiny stems, and yellow fruit that fell on the ground behind other things. It never occured to me to cook with them. What an opportunity missed!

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