One of the most anticipated harvests in our garden, right up there with the first asparagus crop, is the quince. These fuzzy yellow fruits have a fabulously perfumed aroma and taste, once cooked, as good as they smell. Small wonder that they were once sacred to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. And if you fall out with your beloved you can always use them as missiles, because when they’re raw they are rock hard.
They’re used to make quince paste, or membrillo and they pair very well with lamb or game when made into a jelly. They are very good in a pie or crumble but I’ve used them here with apples, another happy marriage, in a rather more refined tart. It’s the quintessential autumn dessert.
Quince and Apple Tart
4-5 quinces, depending on size
2-4 eating apples, depending on size
The juice of 1/2 lemon
About 3 tbsp granulated sugar
1 sheet ready-rolled shortcrust pastry
1 tbsp butter, diced
Apricot jam, to glaze
Wash the fluff off the quinces then peel, core and slice them. Put them in a pan with about 2 tbsp sugar and a splash of water. Cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the quinces have broken down into a purée.
Taste and add more sugar if necessary and allow to cool. You can put them through a food mill at this point if you want them to be super-smooth but I like a bit of texture.
Lightly grease a six-portion flan tin with a removable base. Mine is 35 x 12 cm. Line it with the pastry, leaving the edges high to allow for shrinkage, and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes. Heat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas Mark 7. Peel, core and thinly slice the apples and put them in a bowl with the lemon juice to stop them going brown.
Fill the tart case with the quince purée and arrange the apple slices in overlapping rows on top. Trim the edges of the pastry, sprinkle the top with more sugar and dot with butter, then bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Now turn the oven down to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 and bake for a further 15-20 minutes or until the pastry is light brown and the apples have caramelised.
Remove and allow to cool slightly before removing the tart from the tin. Warm the apricot jam with a tablespoon of water, sieve, and brush over the tart. Serve warm or cold, with cream, crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream.