Hell, if they were good enough for the Owl and PussyCat; Quince, mince all eaten with a runcible spoon then they’ve got to be good. And they’ve even been to sea.
It was my Mum’s birthday recently.
Despite proclaiming occasionally she couldn’t be bothered with the food thing altogether she is quite partial to a slice of tart. Particularly if it comes with a weak flat white and a girly chat in the afternoon.
She’s also quite partial to poached fruit- I’ve got very fond memories of tupperwear full of rhubarb to go with muesli and yogurt pottering about in the fridge.
In fact I’ve got very fond memories of pretty much everything she’s ever done.
If there’s anyone who deserves a birthday cake that requires eight hours of slow cooking a fruit in weak vanilla sugar syrup, bathing it lovingly to coax it from a brittle white little segment into a garnet of pillowy poached perfection it’s her.
If there’s ever someone who deserves a homage to the Owl and the Pussycat it’s her.
One day of cooking doesn’t even begin to add up to the hours she spent reading that book to us before bed.
Happy Birthday Mum.
Quince Frangipane tart for Mum
(with a little help from Damien Pignolet)
Peel and core 2 large quinces- careful they’re much harder than they look. A vegetable peeler won’t cut it. Think of it like pumpkin. A sharp knife, dexterity and patience.
Cut them into eighths.
Lay them down in a flat layer in a lasagne or casserole dish. Sprinkle vanilla sugar all over them and then add water until it covers them all( or make a vanilla sugar syrup to pour over by mixing a cup of white sugar, 2 cups of water and two teaspoons of vanilla extract together in a saucepan and slowly simmering for 15 minutes).
Bake covered in a a 130 degree- 150 degree oven for as long as you can spare.
8 hours is good.
Check on them occasionally. They should turn from a mean puckered green to a luscious ruby red.
You’ll need to time it so the quinces are ready about an hour and a half before you have to leave/ have the tart ready.
Because there’s still alot of fiddling around with tart fillings/ bases.
If everything goes pear shaped just serve the quinces with some great yogurt/icecream and a nice bottle of sticky.
Now if you’re feeling game: the rest of the tart.
You’ll need a shortcrust pastry base in a 26cm quiche tin with a removable bottom.
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
60g icing sugar
250 g plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
190g cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 cm dice.
Beat together egg, vanilla and icing sugar.
Put flour and salt into a food processor and combine. Distribute the butter over the flour and pulse until it’s barely combined.
Add the egg mixture and pulse again until it’s just all come together- Damien says don’t let it form a ball.
Take it out of the food processor and knead it until it’s smooth. ( This’ll take 10 minutes- do this while the quinces are still cooking)
Flatten it into a wide disk, put two large squares of greaseproof paper on either side and put it in the fridge for an hour. ( There’s an hour gone, you’ve only got about another half an our of quince cooking time. If they’re not red enough, turn up the oven to 170 degrees)
Now would be a good time to take 250 g of butter and 4 eggs out of the fridge for the frangipane which you’ll make later.
Take the pastry out of the fridge, let it sit for 10 minutes, roll it out on the bench and gently press it into a greased tart tin.
Put the shell in the freezer. Take the Quinces out of the oven and preheat it to 190 degrees.
Fill the shell with dried beans/ rice/ pastry weights ( seriously, does anyone own pastry weights?) and bake for 10 minutes.
Wash up the food processor. You’re going to need it in a bit for the frangipane filling- though mine’s too dodgy and I discovered about half way through that my hand mixer actually let me cream the butter and sugar much better than my food processor. Your call.
Take the foil/ weights off the pastry case ( try not to spill rice all over the floor- it’ll give you the irks and be under your feet for days) and bake until there’s some colour.
Reduce the temperature and bake until it’s pale caramel in colour.
While this is happening, make the frangipane filling.
In a food processor ( or if you have little faith in yours use a big bowl and your hand mixer) work the 250 g of now softened butter and 250 g of caster sugar together until they’re pale and creamy. Then add 1 tablespoon of plain flour. Then add 4 beaten eggs and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Then add 250 g of ground almonds.
When the tart is caramel in colour take it out of the oven. You may need to push the pastry gently back down into the pan to encourage room for the frangipane.
Put your Quince segments decoratively around the bottom of the tart.
Cover with the frangipane. Set the oven to 180 degrees
DO NOT be tempted to use all of the frangipane if your tart tin is too shallow and it comes to the top before you’ve used all of the mixture.
TRUST ME. You’ll have a bubbling Ghost Busters style marshmallow cascade in your oven which will be hell to clean. Keep it tidy, keep it flat and if you’ve got extra frangipane freeze it for when you just want to make a little cheaters tart for yourself with store bought pastry and tinned peaches.
Bake the tart for 45 minutes at 180 degrees.
Allow it to rest for at least 10 minutes.
Or the drive across the bridge to your mother’s house perched perilously on a bread board on your lap. And through dinner and 2 bottles of good red wine from their cellar.
In fact, it might be best to un mould it BEFORE the 2 bottles of red wine collectively consumed.
Serve with vanilla ice cream.
Next year we might just stick to ice cream.