Nov 21 2004

Quinces and Tomatillos

Quince Ratafia


Quince Ratafia will be wonderful by Christmas. It will add a glow as we drink it with the Christmas Pud and the Mince Pies. It will cheer up vanilla ice cream and add a sparkle to the winter fruit salad. Added to the pork gravy or stirred into a pheasant and apple casserole, it will enrich and bring a sweet wintry depth to the sauce.

Grate a really ripe quince into a litre jar. Add a little sugar depending on your taste. Fill the jar with vodka being sure to completely cover the fruit. Cover with a tight fitting lid and store for at least two months in a dark place. Occasionally give the bottle a shake to help the sugar dissolve. The longer you keep it the better it gets!

Quince, Apple and Tangerine Compote.


Peel the quince with a potato peeler, core and chop into even size chunks. Even ripe quince are very hard, so watch your fingers! Peel, core and chop the apples and slice the tangerines, skin and all, just take out the pips. Put everything in a heavy based pan, tip in 500grams of sugar and heat through, gently at first, till the sugar melts. Then simmer for about an hour till you have a thick, rich puree.

It freezes brilliantly so over the winter months you can eat it with yoghurt or ice cream, or make it into a winter fruit fool.

I will use it as the base of a Tarte au Pommes. Having lined a flan tin with pate sucree and baked it blind, I will cover it with the fruit puree. Next I will arrange the sliced apple in neat circles on the top. I will put it back in the oven until the apples is soft. Then, when it is cool, I will glaze the tarte with rosehip syrup or redcurrant jelly. I will serve it with Devonshire Clotted Cream or home made ice cream.



I have never grown Tomatillos before. I was given a packet of seeds as a gift so I had a go. They germinated easily and, after pricking out, I planted them directly into the ground in the Poly tunnel. Tall graceful plants produced pretty little white flowers similar to a potato or tomato. These were followed by masses of green fruit each wrapped in a little paper jacket. Raw they reminded me of something between a crunchy tomato and an apple! I discovered that they are wonderful in Salsa, with ripe tomatoes, garlic and chillies. I made up a recipe this summer.

Sal’s Salsa!

Take two red peppers, ten tomatillos, ten plumb tomatoes, three large cloves Elephant garlic, sprinkle them with olive oil and put them on a roasting tray in a very hot oven. Keep a check on them and remove each as they become soft. The peppers will take longest, up to 20/25 mins. Skin the tomatoes and garlic and place in food processor. Don’t blitz yet! Add the softened tomatillos and the peeled peppers. Take the peel off a lemon with a potato peeler, leaving behind the pith. Add this and the juice of the lemon to the ingredients in the processor. Add a good handful of roughly chopped parsley and chervil and two hot chillies. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper. Now blitz it all very quickly for just a few seconds. Add 3 oz olive oil. Taste, adjust seasoning if necessary. Add a dash of hot chilli sauce if the chillies are not particularly hot. Stand for an hour before using.

Tomatillo, Tomato and Apple Chutney


Of course I have masses of Tomatillos left and the weather is too cold for salsa so Chutney seems the best answer.

Chop up apples and onions. Halve the large tomatoes and tomatillos, leave the little ones whole. I use all the tomatoes left in the greenhouse, red and green. Weigh everything. Once it is all evenly chopped put into a big preserving pan. Add about 250 grams of sugar to 3 kilos of fruit , a tablespoon of salt and spices of your choice. I use cloves, fresh ginger, allspice, mustard seed and chilli, and this time I even added a piece of star anise. Give the pot a good stir then add 1pnt of white wine vinegar. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally till the liquid is reduced and you have a thick, rich golden mass. Let it cool a little, then pot into clean warm jars. Cover with wax circles and jam covers and put away for the winter months ahead.

Off course you can leave out the tomatillos!


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