What a big treat, guests who come bearing gifts of autumn produce fresh from the Corrèze in South-West France: quinces, young juicy walnuts and shining sweet chestnuts newly shed from their prickly cases and ready to roast on the open fire. But don’t forget to score their skins with a cross to allow the stem to escape and prevent them from exploding, before putting them into a cast iron roasting pan. The smell of roasting chestnuts reminds me of foggy winter nights in Paris.
So we baked the quinces – a noble dish, which, according to Jane Grigson, was Sir Isaac Newton’s favourite pudding – and served them hot with a dollop of thick whipped cream. If you don’t have the opportunity to go foraging for quinces, they are readily available in farmers’ markets at this time of year.
2 large quinces
Grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon
300g fragrant honey
1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthways
Heat the over to 170°C.
Rub the grey fur off the skin of the quinces. With a large strong knife, cut each quince in half through the core. Do not remove the core, pips, calyx or skin. (The core and pips of the quince are naturally full of pectin and help to make a delicious sauce.) Place the halved quinces in a baking dish, pour the lemon juice and zest over them, then roll them around in the juice.
Put the honey, water and vanilla pod into a pan and dissolve the honey in the water over a moderate heat. Arrange the quinces in the baking dish so that their cut sides are facing up, then pour the honey syrup over them. Cover the baking dish with kitchen foil and bake for 1 hour.
Reduce the heat to 150°C. Remove the foil from the baking dish, turn the quinces in the syrup and, once again, arrange them so that the cut sides face upwards. Bake until the quinces are tender and the juice has become thick and syrupy, and the quinces have turned a magnificent glossy red. The cooking time will depend on the quinces, but have a look after half an hour. Serve immediately.
We rounded off our meal cracking open and sharing the creamy, succulent young walnuts.