Spicy, Sweet, Rosy Cheeked Turkish Quinces

Turkish Quinces

Most people have tried quince with quince paste but I've been on a little mission to find alternative recipes for quinces, only because I really like buying them and eating them. I'm not sure why they appeal to me so much apart from the nobbly bright yellow exterior or sweet perfume. I suppose that's enough really. And when I first tried Turkish quinces or Ayva Tatlisi I adored this dessert from the very first bite. Similar to a poached pear it has an appealing tartness plus the rich, warming aroma of cinnamon. It's the perfect dish to make on a cold Winter's night yet it would be equally at home during summer.

I first tried Turkish quinces at a Turkish restaurant called Anason in Sydney. The food was good, the service was charming and friendly (although a bit too upselly) but it was quite expensive. I wasn't sure if I would go back because of the last factor but the one dish that stuck in my mind was this treatment of quince. After I wrote the story Dear Reader Eliza emailed me with a couple of Turkish quince recipes and I couldn't wait for quince season to begin.

Turkish quince is a ridiculously simple dish. You simply poach quinces in a sweet syrup flavoured with cloves, cinnamon and lemon zest and serve it with clotted cream or in my case mascarpone before sprinkling pistachios on top. I just added a bit of browned butter to the quinces when serving them. Some places add some colour to the quince but I actually love the natural blush that you get from it. So I don't need to go anywhere expensive to eat this dish, I can eat it at home!

Turkish Quinces

There are some restaurants where service is not so friendly and you know that you will never go back. The other night we went to one. It didn't start well as we were seated in a draughty area right near the door and Alyson had to put her coat back on and shivered during the whole night. When the food came the manager freaked out a little, swirled plates around our head in a semi panicked gesture and said, "Well you're ALL just going to have to make some room because there are a lot of mains coming so can you move that...camera," he added with a disdainful look at my offending camera. The food was ridiculously priced and the only thing we liked was one side dish.

We weren't the only ones completely underwhelmed. My friend JY got nut poisoning from this place (yes that very serious allergy) and was yelled at by a waitress. Needless to say we weren't in any mood for dessert and skipped it. If only we had some of these quinces on hand at home!

So tell me Dear Reader, are you a quince fan? And if you eat out and don't like the main food do you cut your losses and skip dessert there? Have you ever tried this dish?

Turkish Quinces

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  • 3 quinces, peeled, halved and cored (keep the cores)
  • Juice from a lemon (keep the seeds)
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 7-8 cloves
  • Peel from 1/2 a lemon
  • 75g/2.65ozs butter
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone to serve
  • 4 tablespoons icing or confectioners sugar
  • 4 tablespoons chopped pistachio to serve

Turkish Quinces

Step 1 - Douse the quinces in the lemon juice. Place a large pot onto boil with the water, sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves and lemon zest. Bring to a boil and then add the halved quinces, cores and lemon seeds to the pot. Simmer on low for 40 minutes. Then turn over and cook for 30 minutes until tender.

Step 2 - Carefully remove from the syrup (which can be reserved and served mixed with a soda water or it goes really well as a cocktail base syrup because of all the spices). I usually cool these off completely and keep them in the fridge in the syrup until I want to serve them.

Step 3 - Brown the butter by placing it in a heavy bottomed saucepan on medium to high heat. Allow to bubble away and turn brown-it will take a few minutes and will be ready when there is a gorgeous nutty aroma. Remove from the heat, use a sieve to get rid of the scum and pour off the golden butter at the top leaving the grainy bits in the pan.

Step 4 - When you want to serve them, preheat oven to 190c/380F and place the quinces in an oven proof dish. Place 1 tablespoon of the browned butter on top and heat for 10 minutes. Place the quince on a serving plate. Mix the mascarpone and icing sugar and dollop a tablespoon on top of the macscarpone and sprinkle with chopped pistachios. I also added some edible rose petals for decoration and you can also use a teaspoon of halva.

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