A very autumnal dinner

Sometimes you make a dinner where the flavour combinations come together better than you dare expect, and you end up making a menu that you know you will return to again and again.

Yesterday was one of those dinners. I made:

Slow-braised leg of mutton
Smoked roseval potatoes
Roast crown prince squash

followed by

Orange-baked quince

The mutton recipe I used was derived from this recipe from the Blackface Meat Company although I had a smaller joint of meat so it only needed about 3.5 hours in all.

I really like Roseval potatoes and always pick them up when I spot them in the supermarket. They are a waxy, salad potato with a thick pink-purple skin which I usually peel off, leaving a pink middle layer. To prepare smoked potatoes you boil the unpeeled potatoes in salted water until tender and leave to cool. Peel the potato, trying not to remove too much of the layer immediately under the skin. I cool-smoked the potatoes for about an hour using oak and apple. Then reheat the potatoes in butter when you are ready to serve.

I won’t patronise you with a recipe for roast squash, but I strongly recommend seeking out the Crown Prince, this variety has a light blue-green skin and a lovely delicate flavoured orange flesh. Charbel sells them at Harborne and Moseley markets at the moment.

Baked quince is easy. This is another recipe from Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook. Wash the skin of the quince and then wrap each quince in foil. Sit them upright in an oven dish and bake in a hot oven until quite tender (say 1 hour). Remove, and let cool. To make the orange syrup dissolve 275g caster sugar in 250ml water, add 5 tablespoons orange juice and 1/2 tsp orange-flower water. Remember not to stir the syrup after it has come to the boil so it doesn’t crystallise. Then, halve each quince removing the core as you go. Place the quince flesh-side down in an oven dish and pour over the syrup. Bake until the quince are very soft and “treacly”. Serve with creme fraiche.

Recipe: Windfall Cake

Fun things to do with quince. Membrillo is the obvious one. I did also try HFW’s lamb and quince salad recipe but it didn’t go down very well with the missus (it was quite honestly a bit weird).

Anyway, this cake is well worth a try.

Windfall cake

3 large apples (I used Bramley)
1 large quince or 2 small ones
175g butter plus extra for greasing
2 eggs
180g soft brown sugar
100g blanched almonds, processed to breadcrumb texture
2 lemons
85g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
50g almond flakes

This is a great use of quince and very autumnal. It produces a very soft, unctuous textured cake with a lovely flavour of quince and lemon. This recipe is from Sarah Raven’s fantastic (really) Garden Cookbook, but she credits the original to Monty Don. So I feel justified in reproducing it here!

1) Peel, core and roughly chop the apples and quince. Make sure you get all the quince core out because this can be very hard. Put the fruit into an oven-proof dish and cover with 50g of brown sugar as well as the zest and juice of a lemon. Bake at 180oC until the pieces are soft but not quite broken down (20-30 minutes).

2) Cream together 150g of butter with 150g of soft brown sugar in a food processor. Transfer to a bowl and beat in 2 eggs, one at a time. Add the processed almonds and flour and baking powder and fold into the mixture. Mix the fruit in.

3) Transfer the mixture to a greased, lined baking dish. I used a 19cm dish with good success (original recipe asks for 26cm so that will probably also work).

4) Bake for 30 minutes. In the meantime melt 30g of butter with 25g of brown sugar in a pan, plus juice of a second lemon. Add almond flakes. Remove cake from the oven and spread mixture over top of the cake. Put back in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes longer, until brown.

5) Leave to cool in tin.

Serve with some creme fraiche, or yoghurt, or ice-cream! In fact I tried that Heston salted caramel popcorn ice cream and it was quite good.

Quince Cheese

The fruit lady at Moseley Farmers’ Market still had some quince left. They had a little fuzz of mould growing on them and the bletting had given them a strong, sickly sweet aroma. The excellent River Cottage preserves handbook has a guide to making quince cheese, what the Spanish call membrillo, so I thought I’d give it a go in time for Xmas.

The recipe couldn’t be simpler – take your quince (I had about 1kg), wash and chop them roughly, no need to peel or deseed. Add just enough water to cover, bring to boil and simmer until they start to fall apart. Then leave them to cool for a couple of hours. Strain them and rub them through a sieve – this bit is fairly hard work, a mouli would probably be easier. Then weigh the sieved pulp and add the same amount of granulated white sugar. Bring to the boil, stir to melt all the sugar and then simmer for an hour until the cheese goes dark brown and becomes thick. Then add to jars (or shallow trays) – I used Kilner jars. Leave for at least a month for the flavour to mature. Serve with lots of cheese!