Membrillo – A Labour of Love

Ok, I am going to come straight out with it. THIS IS A LABOUR OF LOVE. It’s my first time making membrillo – Spanish quince paste – you know the one often found on a cheese board that tastes delicious with a slice of manchego cheese. They are found in great abundance in the autumn/fall. My lovely neighbour had a huge glut of quinces from her tree so said would I like a bag. Naturally I said ‘yes’ and after showing me all the glorious creations that she was making in her kitchen – membrillo, as well as quince jelly, I was truly inspired. Her passing words to me was that it was a labour of love, which I didn’t quite fully register.

Look I don’t want to put you off, just to simply say there are a few steps and therefore involves effort to seek a reward. The children’s book about the hen who made bread and asked for help from the other farmyard animals, came to mind when I spent a considerable amount of time sieving the quince through a sieve.

So a few things of importance to note. Quince are not like apples or pears, other than in appearance. Their bitter flesh means they are almost exclusively for cooking instead of eaten raw. To core them is super hard, even with a sharp knife and after grazing my finger I thought that the best way to deal with them was to simply peel them and quarter or half them and then put them in water to boil – along with the lemon rind and vanilla pod. After 45 minutes I turned off the heat and in fact left them overnight to rest until morning. If you do this earlier in the day then you can simply removed the vanilla pod and then blend them, pips and all. What comes out of the sieve – with a bit of hard work with the back of a spoon –  is a very smooth paste, that resembles baby puree. At this stage the colour is a mellow yellow.

Then you need to weigh the amount of pureed quince and then whatever the amount is, you place the same amount of granulated sugar in a large pan. Keeping on a low heat you stir at intervals for an 1h 15 mins. The quince changes from yellow to more of a red hue. Then the final stage is to put it into an ovenproof dish, which you line with parchment paper, greased with a very little coating of butter. Pour the contents of the pan into the dish and place into a low oven 125 degrees F for a further hour, by this time it will be a deep blood red colour.  Leave to cool completely before removing the greaseproof paper and the now hard membrillo from the dish. Cut it up into the sizes you wish to portion up. I cut mine into 9 large cubes, which I wrapped in foil and placed in the fridge. According to my neighbour, they can last for a year in the fridge. If any mould appears in time, it’s simply a case of removing the top layer and continuing to eat. Waste not want not springs to mind. I will give these out as some of my edible Christmas gifts, maybe accompanied with some Manchego cheese.

 

Membrillo – Spanish Quince Paste

best eaten with a hard cheese such as Manchego, or game or pate.

1 bag of quince (mine weighed in at this stage to 2.5kg)

1 vanilla pod, sliced in two

juice of one lemon

2 strips of lemon peel (yellow part only)

granulated sugar (the same amount exactly as your pureed quince – mine came to 1.254kg)

 

  1. Peel the quince and cut them in half or quarters if you can. Place in a large pan and cover with water and add the vanilla pod and lemon peel. Boil away gently for 45 minutes, or until they are soft.
  2. Strain the water, remove the vanilla pod and discard, but keep the lemon peel with the quince and then blitz in batches in your blender.
  3. Take the blended quince and put into a sieve and using the back of a spoon sieve through the contents. The pips and cores will remain, but what comes through the sieve is a really smooth paste, similar to baby puree. This part takes effort to do persist and don’t give up.
  4. Once it has all being sieved (congratulations the hard bit is over), weigh it out and then place in a large sauce pan. Place the same amount of granulated sugar as quince puree into the pan along with the juice of a whole lemon. Simmer, stirring at intervals, for the next 1h 15 mins, by which time the quince puree will have gone a reddish colour – but not the colour of the final membrillo, that only comes when it goes in the oven.
  5. Using an ovenproof dish – I used a large square baking dish 25cmx25cm – line it with greaseproof parchment paper and coat with a little butter. Place the quince paste into the dish and then place in a low oven at 125 degrees F for a further 1 hour.
  6. Remove from the oven to cool completely before removing from the tin and sectioning up into large squares or rectangles. Cover individually with foil and place in the fridge.
  7. Perfect as gifts and eaten with some delicious hard cheese such as Manchego.

 

 

 

 

 


Cinnamon, Sea Salt and Chilli Chocolate Truffles

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Foodie gifts are always the best. Not only do they show effort and thought but are guaranteed to bring a smile to the receiver and a warm fuzzy feeling to the giver. Recently friends who came for supper bought along four bags of spices from Turkey that they had picked up on a recent business trip. So I now have bags of sumac and spice rubs – you can imagine how overjoyed I was.

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Time permitting, I like to take food gifts, sometimes homemade sometimes not, to friends who are hosting suppers. I find my chipotle sauce always goes down well, or in fact any of my chutneys under the chutney section in my recipe library. Chocolate truffles are always a crowd pleaser and are also perfect for bringing out at the end of a dinner. They take minimal effort to make and you can make them a few days in advance and then store them in the fridge.

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I am more partial to milk than dark chocolate so I have double the amount of milk chocolate to dark, I find this ration works really well. You can do the opposite if you prefer dark. You can also get creative with these truffles and instead of adding cinnamon, sea salt and chilli flakes, who can add just one or perhaps another spice such as cardamom, or perhaps fresh mint, coconut, ginger, nuts, raisons, bacon – the possibilities are endless.

Personally I love the combination of cinnamon, sea salt and a pinch of chilli flakes. Give them a try and leave a comment below and tell me what you think.

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Cinnamon, Sea Salt and Chilli Chocolate Truffles

200ml double cream

100g Green & Black milk chocolate 37% cocoa with sea salt

50g Green & Black dark chocolate 70% cocoa

1/2 tsp cinnamon powder

1  pinch of sea salt

1 pinch of chilli flakes

1 tbsp cocoa powder – for dusting

1. Place the milk and dark chocolate in a freezer bag and seal. Use a rolling pin to bash the chocolate into small pieces.

2. Gently warm the cream in a saucepan. When hot take off the heat and pour the broken up pieces of chocolate into the saucepan along with the cinnamon powder, sea salt and chilli flakes. The chocolate will melt within a couple of minutes. Give a good stir and taste to see if you like the flavour. Add a little more cinnamon powder, sea salt or chilli flakes as your taste requires.

3. Place into a bowl and place in the fridge for an hour and a half, by which time the chocolate will have become firmer to handle.

4. Roll in the palms of your hands to form small bite sized balls. I prefer them to look a little uneven compared to beautifully neat balls, but it’s a personal preference. Please note this part can become a little messy!

5. Roll in the cocoa powder and store  in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to eat. They will last for up to a week.

Instead of rolling the truffles in cocoa powder you could roll in pistachio, hazelnuts or coconut. Experiment and see what works for you.

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Kashmir Chutney – the perfect winter gift

There is always something rather heartwarming and homely when a friend surprises you with a gift of homemade chutney, jelly, relish or pickles. It doesn’t often happen, but when it does I love it all the more, (than a bought one that is!) as I know how much effort, love and precious time has gone into preparing it. I am wondering whether chutney making is a pastime that is more popular for those who live in the countryside than the city? Maybe the majority of city dwellers are busying themselves with the hustle, bustle and grind of daily life that the thought of chutney making just doesn’t appeal. Well I for one am bucking that trend!

I have always been told that you are meant to give gifts that you would ultimately like to receive yourself, so I decided for this blog I would share the recipe of one of my favourite chutneys, known as Kashmir chutney. If they are properly prepared and stored they last up to a year, so I thought I would make a batch ready for gifts over the winter season. I plan to share a few more with you before Christmas, but thought that Kashmir chutney was the perfect one to get you into mood for chutney making.

They are perfect for bringing out at family gatherings such as Thanksgiving and Christmas and as well as cheese, they work wonderfully with hams, and grilled spicy sausages. I find that such condiments really lift a dish and give them that extra satisfying dimension. I hope that you agree.

The jars I use are not uniformly similar. They range from the traditional kilner jars, to the reused old jam jars. I use waxed discs and cellophane covers for some of the jars, but to point me in the right direction I really love the book by Catherine Atkinson and Maggie Mayhew called ‘The Complete Book of Preserves & Pickles’. They cover everything you need to know as well as a wide range of wonderful recipes. Its also a good idea to get hold of some labels so that you can mark the date and type of chutney;  some chutneys can last unopened for up to 2 years.  For all the equipment you need I order from the ‘Jam Jar Shop‘, which are efficient and offer a speedy delivery service.

Kashmir Chutney

Sourced from ‘The Complete Book of Preserves & Pickles’ 

Makes about 2.75kg (approx 8 jars, depending on size)

1kg green eating apples

15g of garlic cloves

1 litre/4 cups of malt vinegar

450g stoneless dates

120g preserved stem ginger

450g raisins

450g soft brown sugar (I usually use light but this time I used dark)

1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper

2 tbsp salt

1. Peel the apples, quarter them and remove the cores. Then chop them into bite sized chunks. Peel the garlic and chop.

2. In a pan pour the malt vinegar to cover the garlic and apples, and bring to the boil for 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, chop the dates and ginger and then add them, along with all the other ingredients to the pan and stir. Simmer for 45 minutes.

4. Transfer the contents of the pan into warmed sterilized jars and place a waxed disc on top. Wipe clean any mess that has spilled around the top of the jars and then seal immediately. Rest in a cool place and leave ideally for a minimum of a month before opening.