Apple and pears are the better known relatives of the quince. The quince is like an antiquated and estranged cousin of this familiar fruit family. A tart cousin at that.
That is until it’s cooked. It’s yellow flesh turns a ruby red that mimics the beetroot ketchup I made, and it’s flavour is a sort of sharp and perfumed one.
The quince I used were as a result of my exploring Peckham and discovering the General Store. Here you’ll find bowls, shelves, crates and baskets of the best kind of proper quality foods. That includes quince, apples and such that locals have traded in with the store. I was pretty glad to stumble upon that place as my Saturday attempt to urban forage fell short when the doors I knocked of apple tree owners were unanswered. The General Store guys also taught me that the soft covering on the quince (that could easily be mistaken for dust) is actually called pubescence and that’s good pub quiz material. I’m not sure of pubescences’ purpose but I am sure it has one- nature is good like that.
For about a kilogram of quince (which made me 2 jars of quince butter) begin by washing off said pubescence before peeling and chopping the fruit and putting it in a blender. Blend the quince till they are finely chopped. Place this mixture in a slow cooker on high and add just shy of a cup of a natural sugar like muscovado or demerara, a tablespoon of cinnamon and a few drops of vanilla essence. Leave this on the go for about 4 hours-ish, stirring if you are home. After that cooker time place the mixture back in the blender and blend till a smooth paste. Chuck it back in the slow cooker for another 4 hours or so and you’ll have a fruit butter with pow.
Fruit butters are a great jam alternative for what is undeniably jam season. I put my quince butter on some toasted rye and sprinkled some coconut on top but they are also good in porridge or stirred in to your muesli.
I might start a campaign to bring back the quince. It’s a good’un.
It’s all gotten a little wild back here.
In the wake of our enthusiastic ‘plant-germinate-get them outside-repeat’ mantra we’ve got ourselves in to a bit of a greenhouse ruckus.
The door won’t shut.
Beetroot are that veg that, along with parsnips, are always described as earthy.
I think there is some science thing happening there to do with them being root veg and all soil-y and stuff. Whatever the science, that earthy vibe tastes right good.
Here enter a root veg adaptation of, irrefutably, Britain’s best loved condiment: beetroot ketchup.
Get 250g of tomatoes roasting in the oven until they browning, juicy and smell good (4o mins ish). Blend this with 250g of cooked beets and put the combination on the hob on a medium heat. Add 2 cloves of crushed garlic, some grated ginger, some dried chilli flakes, and a good spoonful of cajun spice. To sweeten it up add a couple of teaspoons of honey in too alongside a tablespoon or so of balsamic vinegar. Let all this good stuff simmer for a while. You know the rule, the longer it simmers- the better. Ours stayed on the hob for around 40 minutes. Once cooled, jar it up and hello. A new take on a classic [warning: you might not go back and this may cause controversy].
There are some tricks to making it taste even better. Firstly, use your mate’s homegrown beets from her London rooftop (thanks Sarah) and secondly, pair it with a batch of [earthy] parsnip chips and Anna Jones ‘The Really Hungry Burger.’ And mates, obviously. Them too.
*Thanks Hannah for taking dinner pics
Elderflowers are out of here. We’re waiting on the berries now to get brewing some syrups and baking some puds. How’s that for a tree that just keeps giving?
[I however just printed a rogue roll of film with a recipe on it from the flowers… so you can just bank this one till next year].
Elderflower fritters. Made from an almost pancake batter, these guys are a cracking way to do something different with elderflowers after you have of course crafted enough infused gin to sink a very merry ship.
First job after giving the stems enough of a trim to leave just the heads is to get rid of any bugs by giving them a shake and maybe a wash. For a basket of heads (say 20-ish) grab 200g of plain flour and sift it in to a bowl before mixing in one beaten egg. Then add in 300ml of sparkling water a bit at a time, mixing as you go. You’ll end up with a smooth paste and it’s at this point you can chuck in a tablespoon of sugar too before putting the mixture in the fridge for a half hour. After a little rest, get some oil on the go- say enough to be an inch or two deep in your frying pan of choice. Make sure it is super hot (you can test by dropping some batter in there and seeing if it quickly turns golden) and then lower your elderflower heads in there by the stem. You could use some tongs if your hands aren’t made of something inflammable. Once they are golden (which shouldn’t be long), pull em’ out and get rid of excess oil by dropping them on to a tea towel. Then eat them quick. We dipped ours into a yoghurt and honey mix but there are rumours out there of vanilla or cinnamon sugars making a happy combo too.
‘No we don’t have Coca Cola, we serve fresh apple juice, because no matter which one of our restaurants you are visiting you can pretty much guarantee that there’s an apple orchard within a 20-mile radius producing gallons of the stuff.
No, we don’t have highchairs because we believe that if your child is too tiny to sit up on their own they should sit on your lap…
And no, we don’t sell marmalade, we have local jams – and will continue to do so until oranges are grown in this country.’
Their ethos packs a punch.
Thankfully, and saving awkwardness, their food, coffee, bakes and vibe matches their community-centered creation story.
You’ll sit among strangers on the benches at the bakery, asking them to pass the salt and pepper like you are round your family dinner table. If you make it for the lunch shift you’ll eat hearty stews and soups out of bowls made from bread which you can guarantee the freshness of because you can see them being made. If I’m in Lyme for the day, I’ll chance an early lunch at the bakery, a coastal trek and then a literal slab of cake back at the bakery base camp. It’s that good.
These guys, with their uncompromising values that rate the handcrafted over convenience, will flip conventional foody experiences on their head. Then you’ll leave, pretty stoked and, remembering what you had, making sure you pay at the door. It’s making loyal mates over keeping tabs for the Town Mill team.
Big fan right here.