I like the idea of quince- and the blossom on the tree in spring is exquisite - but the reality of the fruit is often challenging. Rarely is it that I cut into a quince without finding I then have to dig out all the wormy sections, and the road-kill remnants that I then have to work with are not a noble sight. I can well-understand why it is that this fruit is no longer grown commercially! On occasion, though, I come across a recipe which restores my faith in the things.....and this is one such. The flavours are subtle and complicated, and the combination of spice and rich fruit is comfortingly reminiscent of Christmas. It has much to recommend it.
Ingredients: 3 medium quince, peeled, cored and quartered; 6 medium apples, cox or similar, peeled cored and thinly sliced; 3 oranges; 2 lemons; 3/4 cup sugar, + 2 tbs sugar; 2 tsp cinnamon; 16 prunes, quartered; 1/3 cup sweet white wine; 20 peeled, blanched almonds; shortcrust pastry, made with 10 oz flour and 8 oz butter (this will leave enough over for the base of a different tart on another day).
1. Roll out the pastry to line a 28 cm diameter false-bottomed tart tin. Freeze the base for twenty minutes, and then blind bake it at 190°C to biscuit crispness. Roll out the remaining pastry to a size and shape large enough from which subsequently to cut the top for the pie, and refrigerate this pastry, to firm up.
2. Grate the jest from the oranges into a bowl and set aside. Into a saucepan of medium size squeeze the juice from the oranges and lemons; to this, add 1 tsp cinnamon and 3/4 cup of sugar, and the sweet wine; add the quince quarters, cover with water, bring to the boil on the stove, and then cover and simmer until the quince pieces are properly soft (perhaps 15 minutes). Remove the quince pieces to a bowl, and over a low heat reduce their poaching liquid until it is a syrup, and allow this to cool.
3. Combine the apple slices with 2 tbs sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon and the grated orange zest. Use half of this mixture to line the base of the baked pastry shell, and then place on top first the quince pieces, than the quartered prunes and the almonds; spread the remaining apple mixture over the top.
4. Take the remaining pastry from the fridge, and cut out the top for the pie, using a lattice template if so inclined (I generally do). Put the top in place, pressing down with a rolling pin to attach it firmly to the top of the pastry shell, and to cut off the excess pastry around the side. Brush the top of the pie with beaten egg-white, and then bake for forty minutes.
5. Allow to cool properly before you remove the pie from the the tin. Serve warm or cold, with a spoonful of the reduced poaching liquid as a sauce. Be warned: one slice is not enough!