Quince + pistachio crusted clafoutis
Sometimes a single ingredient can inspire a a whole week in the kitchen. The wonderful new General Store in Winchester had the most beautiful display of quinces last week. I had no plan or need for quinces, yet I just couldn’t leave without purchasing some.
Quinces are hard and uninviting when raw, but completely transform themselves through cooking. Still without a plan for a final dish, I decided to poach them; partly for that incredible colour and aroma that comes from a long slow simmer; and partly because it gives you the most delectable bi-product in the way of quince cordial.
Despite having no intension of taking part in dry January, my body decided to intervene as soon as the third lockdown was announced by giving me indigestion every time I attempted to drown my home-schooling sorrows with a glass of something alcoholic. After a week of being in denial, and just trying to ‘push on through’ aperitivo time, I grudgingly gave in. Luckily, beautifully perfumed quince syrup makes a great alcohol-free apero’ with soda water, tonic water or kombocha.
Anyway, I digress. After a day or two of having the poached quinces sitting expectantly in the fridge, I finally came up with the rest of the dish. I didn’t want to add too many conflicting flavours, but I love the combination of quince and pistachio, especially as there was already a hint of cardamom in the cooking syrup. I toyed with the idea of a cake or a tart, but in the end I plumped for a sort of experimental crusted clafoutis.
The classic French dessert of fruit cooked in batter ranges between a set custard and a sort of sweet Yorkshire pudding. Mine is somewhere in between, with the addition of an almost cookie-like crust on the top. My baking dish was a bit on the small side, so I ended up with enough batter to make a mini version in my tiniest frying pan too. You’ll end up with a few pieces of quince left over -enjoy with some thick Greek yoghurt or try serving with cheese, like a fresh membrillo.
The clafoutis is texturally interesting enough to serve on its own, but is also lovely with pouring cream or crème anglaise, of course. I rather fancy making some labneh with the gorgeous looking yoghurt from the Dorset Dairy Co (today’s impulse buy from General Store!), but that will take at least 24 hours and I can’t guarantee there will be any clafoutis left to serve it with by then…
Quince and pistachio crusted clafoutis
For the poached quinces:
- 225 g caster sugar
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 2 tbsp good quality cider vinegar
- 3 large quinces
- 6 cardamom pods, bruised
For the clafoutis:
- 60 g salted butter
- 75 g caster sugar
- 125 g shelled pistachio nuts
- 150 ml milk
- 150 ml double cream
- 1 egg, plus 3 egg yolks
- 50 g plain flour
- 1 tbsp demerara sugar
- Put the sugar, lemon juice and vinegar in a saucepan with 1 litre of water. Stir occasionally over a medium heat to dissolve the sugar while you prep the quinces.
- Peel the quinces, then cut into quarters and remove the cores. Drop them straight into the saucepan as soon as they’re ready.
- Make a cartouche by cutting out a circle of greaseproof paper a little wider than the saucepan and cutting a hole in the middle about the size of a 50p. Lay it on top of the liquid. When it starts to boil, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer gently for 3 hours. You can get away with less time, but the flavour and colour intensifies the longer you cook them. Leave to cool in the syrup.
- Preheat the oven to 200⁰C (180⁰ fan), 390 F, gas 6.
- Make a beurre noisette by melting the butter in a saucepan, First it will bubble noisily, then it will quietly foam. When it looks like the head on a beer, it should be ready – swirl the pan and if the foamy head has speckles of brown and smells deliciously nutty, it’s done.
- Brush a little of the butter inside a baking dish, then weigh in the caster sugar. Set aside.
- Put the pistachio nuts in a food processor and pulse until chopped. Set aside two tablespoons for the top, then whizz the rest until powdery.
- Shimmy the sugar around the inside of the baking dish until well coated, then shake the excess into the food processor. Add the caramelised butter, then blend until smooth (it should be the texture of tahini).
- Add the milk, cream, egg, egg yolks and flour and blend briefly until smooth.
- Cut six of the quince quarters in half and arrange them inside the baking dish. Pour over the pistachio batter. Mix the reserved chopped pistachios with the demerara sugar and sprinkle over the top.
- Bake for 35 – 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the pudding comes out clean. Serve hot, warm, room temperature or chilled.