I think I’ve mentioned ‘mellow fruitfulness’ before recently, but it’s a repetition worth making when we come to this pleasingly comforting recipe filled with proper autumn fruits, the Apple Amber. Mrs. Farrow and I had an abundance of apples from our venerable, gnarly Bramley this year, ripening a little earlier than usual and not as tongue-curlingly tart either. Having wandered up and down our street offering carrier bags full of these sharp bombs of tangy goodness to our neighbours, I reckon we’ll be a little less open-handed with our next autumnal treat though – our quinces. My lovely friends and erstwhile colleagues in The Cellar Showroom at Stevenage kindly gave us the wonderful gift of a quince tree for a wedding gift, and this year the aptly named Meecham’s Prolific is living up to its moniker. The branches are bowed heavy with pale golden fruit heady with the quince’s trademark fragrance.
There is a notion that these were the fruit offered to Eve by that reprobate serpent in the Garden of Eden. I can well believe that these aromatic gems would have been a bigger temptation to her, being something like the winsome love child of a scented English eating apple, a Cox’s Orange Pippin say, and a ripe buttery pear with a hint of citrus and something indefinably, boskily, enticingly perfumed thrown in.
Our quinces will be ripe in a matter of days now, and I can’t wait. If you see them in a shop here (Turkish and other Middle Eastern grocers are good for them) grab them and cook them. You won’t want to eat them raw, trust me, but baked or poached, jellied or jammed, pickled or potted, they are a joy. This recipe, a kind of orchard meringue pie, combines the autumn bounty of both apple and quince and I commend it to you with an anticipatory smile.
Apple & Quince Amber
- 250g peeled and cored cooking apples, cut into rough chunks
- 250g peeled and cored quince, diced (if you can’t get quince use the same quantity of pear or more apple)
- 200g caster sugar
- A knob of unsalted butter
- 100g fresh white breadcrumbs
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 3 large egg yolks (keep the whites for the meringue)
- 3 large egg whites
- 175g caster sugar
- 5 drops of lemon juice
- 500g pack of sweet shortcrust pastry (make your own if that makes you happy, and why wouldn’t it?)
- Preheat your oven to 180°C/160°C fan.
- Place the sweet shortcrust pastry on a floured surface and using a floured rolling pin roll it out into a circle about the thickness of a £1 coin and big enough to comfortably line a 23cm loose bottomed, lightly buttered tart tin. The edges of the pastry should overlap the tin but don’t worry, they are easy to trim with a serrated knife once the pastry is cooked and cooled. Prick the pastry base all over with a fork and line it with baking parchment and baking beans or an alternative. Blind bake for 15 minutes, then remove the beans and parchment and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes to crisp a little.
- To make the ‘amber’ filling, put the chunks of cooking apple, the diced quince, the knob of butter, a tablespoonful of water and the caster sugar into a large saucepan over a low, heat. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally as the cooking apple breaks down to a mush. The trick now is to keep cooking the fruit slowly until the mixture begins to thicken. Just be patient until you reach this point and stir regularly until you get there so it doesn’t catch, about 20-25 minutes. You should end up with a thick sweet purée, with no wateriness.
- Stir in the breadcrumbs thoroughly, add the ground cinnamon (you can add more if you like but I’d be wary of adding too much and masking the flavour of the quince). Let the apple mixture cool a little then stir in the egg yolks. If you add the yolks when the apple mix is hot they will curdle and you’ll have apple with scrambled eggs.
- When the apple and quince mixture is cool, spoon it into the also cooled, blind-baked pastry case and smooth it a little to ensure it reaches the edges of the pastry.
- To make the meringue topping, whisk the egg whites and the lemon juice until soft peaks form. Add the caster sugar a couple of tablespoons at a time, whisking briefly after each addition until the sugar is incorporated and the resulting meringue mixture is glossy. Don’t over whisk it so that it becomes too stiff or collapses.
- Spoon the meringue mixture onto the apple mixture in the tart base, roughly smoothing it and lifting the spoon to create little peaks.
- Put the tart back into the oven at 180°C/160°C fan, and bake for 25 minutes, or until the meringue has begun to brown on top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes and serve warm, perhaps with a dollop of thick, full-fat cream (and I can’t emphasise the full-fat element enough here for a little luxury), Greek yoghurt or crème fraîche.
Try this autumnal tart, with its tangy rich fruit and fluffy meringue topping with the delicious Coteaux du Layon Saint-Aubin, Domaine Cady 2018 for a meeting of appley fruit and wonderfully poised sweetness. A fragrant, palate lifter with enough heady scent and peachy fruit is the Moscato d’Asti Elio Perrone 2019, gently sparkling and charming. With its refreshing seam of acidity allied to its beautiful fruit and poise the Jurançon ‘Ballet d’Octobre’, Domaine Cauhapé 2018 would be a delightful match, as would a slightly different beast but an equally pleasing one, the richer Samos Anthemis 2013 (50cl), its caramel inflection embracing the ‘amber; richness of the tart. Finally, pushing the boat out a little consider the Bacheracher Hahn Riesling Auslese, Toni Jost 2018 from Germany, its gorgeous fruit but spine-tingling acidity ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with the tangy apples while cutting the sweet meringue.