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Cookery: Mince and quince

07 January 2009

by Deanna Baynes

AT LEAST once a week I visit a mar­ket in Dalston; it is so colourful and full of characters. Wonderful fruit and veg piled high and cheap, plenty of fish stalls laid out beautifully, and one or two black hairdresser stalls with names such as “God Is Able”.

In the centre of this market is an amazing Turkish supermarket. It has unusual products such as fresh green olives, figs, dates, and — wait for it — huge quinces. What have I got in mind? Quince jelly. It has the most delicate flavour. Remember, the lighter the colour the better the jelly — and they are full of pectin, a good source of fibre.

3 large quinces — approximately 1.6 kg (3½ lbs)
1 litre (2¼) pints of water
granulated sugar
1 lemon, squeezed and strained

Cut up the quinces — skins, seeds, and all — put them into a food pro­cessor and chop them until fine; do not pulp them. Put this into a large saucepan, pour the water over, bring to the boil, and then simmer for almost two hours. You may have to top it up with an extra cup of water.

Take it off the boil, cool it, and leave in the fridge for 24 hours. It should become a faint pink colour. Strain this in a sieve lined with a mus­lin cloth, but do not squeeze the cloth, or the liquid will turn cloudy, and it should be absolutely clear. Leave for an hour or two.

Use the same saucepan and mea­sure out the juice in a cup: match every cup of juice with a cup of sugar, then pour in the lemon juice and bring to the boil. It should boil rap­idly, and after 15 minutes it will set.

Have ready three glass jars that have been sterilised in the oven, and pour the jelly in. It should be a rose colour. This is wonderful on toast or with meat. Try it instead of red­currant jelly with lamb.

For something different, try Quince cheese. Follow the recipe for quince jelly, but instead of straining the mixture through a sieve lined with muslin, press it through the unlined sieve with the back of a wooden spoon. Pour it into sterilised ramekins with a circle of greaseproof paper in the base and cover each with a jam-pot cover. When it has set, turn it out on to a small dish and slice it like cheese.

After all the rich food over the festive season, how about some simple home-made burgers? Try some quince jelly with them.

Lamb burgers (serves 4)

500g (1 lb) lamb mince
2 dessertspoons fresh mint leaves
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large egg
2 teaspoons plain flour

Place the uncooked mince into a bowl. Chop up the mint finely, and add this and the onions. In a separate container, beat up the egg and mix the flour in, and pour over the mince. Season, and beat up the ingredients all together until the texture breaks down. Shape four burgers, place them between two pieces of grease­proof paper, and rest them overnight in the fridge. When ready to serve, fry in oil.

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