Jelly is always a gorgeous way of highlighting fruit in all its glory. When it comes to November, it’s time to shine a light on quince. We grew them in the garden when I was a child, but none of us knew what to do with them; my brother and I used them as balls to play cricket. Since I’ve been enlightened, I look forward to getting my hands on them and making jelly (using up the poached quince and liquid makes me very satisfied). Any leftover poached quince can then be sliced and baked into a bakewell tart, or used to top yoghurt and granola in the morning.
Poached quince, jelly and shortbread
Prep 15 min
Cook 2 hr 45 min
For the quince
1.9 litres water
400g sugar (or caster sugar)
6 gelatine leaves (I use Dr Oetker)
For the shortbread (makes 8 pieces)
60g caster sugar , plus extra for sprinkling
140g plain flour
A pinch of sea salt
115g cold unsalted butter, cubed
Start by poaching the quince. Put the water and sugar in a large saucepan, squeeze in the lemon juice and add the spent shell. Peel the quince, throw the skins into the pan, then cut the fruit into quarters and add them, too. Make a cartouche: cut a circle of baking paper to fit the saucepan, run it under a tap, scrunch it up, then un-scrunch and lay over the quince in the pan and put a plate on top to hold the fruit down. Set the pan over a medium heat and, once the liquid comes to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for two to two and a half hours, until the quince is tender when a knife is inserted. Take off the heat, leave to sit for a few hours, then pour the liquor and fruit into a container and place in the fridge. The quince will develop in colour over the next few days. Before using, remove the core and strain the skins from the liquid.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4. Line the base of a 20cm sandwich tin with greaseproof paper (or use a similar-sized square baking tin). In a large bowl, stir the sugar, flour and salt, addthe butter and, using your fingertips, mix until the mix resembles breadcrumbs. The flour should be golden with butter and look rich. Tip this into the lined tin, press down well, then prick all over with a fork. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until lightly golden, then remove and sprinkle liberally with sugar and a pinch of salt, if you like. Cut while warm, but leave to cool fully before removing from the tin and eating.
To make the jelly, measure 750ml quince poaching liquid into a large jug, then taste: does it need more sweetness or acidity? If so, add 30g sugar or squeeze in half a lemon. Pour half the liquid into a small saucepan and warm gently until steaming. Soak the gelatine leaves in ice-cold water until soft, squeeze out the excess liquid and stir into the hot poaching liquid. Remove from the heat and, once fully dissolved, pour into the remaining poaching liquid. Stir well then pour into a jelly mould of your choice or individual ramekins. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight.
To serve, dip the jelly mould in hot water, dry the base and flip over on to a plate. Serve with slices of quince, the shortbread and a dollop of thick Jersey cream.