Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Fruity alioli,a christmas quince esential


There are certain culinary aromas that herald the imminence of Christmas.Tearing back the peel from a satsuma,tangerine or clementine is one, but the unforgettable scent of the quince at this time of year has to be the most distinctive of all.So beautiful is the smell of the ripe fruit that there is a temptation to keep the whole lot in the fruit bowl until Christmas, just for their perfume.The quince is not a user friendly fruit by any means, so any thoughts of sinking your gnashers and tucking into it  as you would a pear, you can forget.
Quince has a particular affinity with pork, especially a fatty cut like shoulder or belly, as its astringency cuts through the richness of the meat. I have often added some pieces of quince to slow-roasted pork.I have also used it in crumbles and bakes as a foil to apples and pears.Quince has a great affiliation with dairy products too,so it makes great ice cream – the flavour is so distinct and wonderful that it really holds up to the addition of cream and also being frozen. Quince is a very versatile fruit, so once you get to grips with the fact that it needs long, slow cooking, you will find yourself putting it with all sorts of things – a slice with yogurt in the morning, a piece with some cheese at lunch and some with your roast meat at dinner.
Quince is probably most commonly eaten as membrillo or marmelada, a quince paste that is popular in Spain and Portugal. There are any number of versions; my favourite is a coarse paste with a deep red hue, and is delicious eaten with an aged tangy cheese like Manchego, Pecorino or a mature Cheddar. Quince paste is also useful in cooking – a slice in the pan with a good old game bird can add the fruity sweet and sour flavour that game needs.My latest discovery with quince comes by way of Moro,the restaurant in Exmouth market,London. You add crushed garlic and olive oil to the quince paste to make a delicious quince alioli to eat with roast pork.
Quince alioli
This fruity variation of alioli goes especially well with pork and lamb. It's best to use a food processor or mixing bowl when you're dealing with something as dense as membrillo, but if you're just using a pestle and mortar, melt the membrillo down first with a tiny bit of water (I used Oloroso sherry)? over a low heat. This will make it easier to incorporate the oil.There is no need to for egg to emulsify the alioli as the membrillo is thick enough to serve the same function, and better still, unlike a regular alioli, it is difficult to split this.

Serves 4
1 large garlic clove
250g membrillo (quince paste)
150ml oil (equal parts extra virgin olive oil and sunflower oil)
Lemon juice to taste
Salt and black pepper
Crush the garlic with a little salt in the pestle and mortar.
Transfer to a food processor or bowl, and add the membrillo. Blend, and slowly add the oil in a thin stream, resting occasionally, until all the oil is incorporated. Add more salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.

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