Quince have been used in British kitchens since (probably) the 13th century and mead’s history goes back even further, so I’ve gone a bit medieval on you today. The flavours complement each perfectly, the sweetness of the fermented honey drink cutting the astringency of the quince.
Chuck in some sweet spices and citrus and you’ve got a dessert that takes minutes to prepare, though admittedly hours to cook.
It’s a lovely dish to bung in the oven to finish a leisurely weekend meal, but you can make it in advance and eat it cold or gently re-heated, if that fits your schedule better. I like it best warm, with a good dollop of honeyed yoghurt … just stir runny honey into Greek yoghurt until you get the level of sweetness you like. Alternatively, whip double cream with some of the quince syrup. Delicious.
NB: it’s been a phenomenally good year for quince, we’ve been eating them non-stop. I am planning a meat dish with quince which I hope to get to you before their fleeting season is over. If not, bookmark it for next year!
Baked Quince with Mead
4 medium quince
200 ml mead
150g golden caster sugar
3-4 pieces of orange peel (no pith)
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp allspice berries
Pre-heat the oven to 140C/275F/Gas Mark 1.
Squeeze the citrus juices into an oven-proof dish big enough to hold the quince in a single layer once halved. Add the spices, orange peel and sugar.
Wash any fluff from the quinces then cut them in half lengthways. Toss them in the citrus juices to stop them discolouring then arrange them cut side up in the dish.
Take a sheet of baking paper slightly larger than your dish, run it under the tap and then scrumple it up. Un-crumple it and lay it over the quince, tucking in the sides. Cover tightly with foil, then pop on a lid, if your dish has one.
Bake for two hours.Then remove the coverings, baste with the syrup and cook for a further two hours uncovered, basting occasionally. Don’t be conned, the quince will feel tender to the point of a knife after the first two hours but it won’t be soft all the way through to the core.
Serve with the yoghurt or cream, with syrup spooned over the top.