A while ago there was a meme making the rounds which I did my very best to avoid. As my track record with memes had already deteriorated considerably by that point, the fact that I dropped the ball probably didn’t raise many eyebrows, but still I felt quite guilty. You see, I wanted to participate, but I couldn’t bring myself to because doing so would have forced me to air some unpleasant truths about the way I cook that I simply wasn’t ready to admit. I had great fun reading everyone else’s culinary confessions, though, and swore that someday I would air at least a few of mine, when the time was right. Luckily for you, dear readers, my mini-confessional last time has made me throw caution to the wind, and for better or for worse I have decided to let loose today one of my deepest, darkest secrets.
So, here goes. My name is Melissa and I am quite possibly the laziest cook alive.
Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking – there’s no way I’m really the laziest cook alive, and you’re probably right. What I might be, however, is the laziest person alive who a) spends nearly every waking hour thinking about food, b) claims to prefer cooking to just about any other activity, and c) disparages those celebrity chefs who have made a fortune developing recipes and techniques for other lazy people. My shelves are full of cookbooks that encourage, cajole and admonish me to blend my own mayonnaise, grind my own spices, and roll my own pasta. I know curry paste from a mortar is more delicious than that from a can, and that stock simmered from a fresh, free-range bird will beat the pants off those abysmal cubes. I also know that melting chocolate and cooking custard directly over a flame is literally like playing with fire, but somehow in the heat of the moment all that wisdom is blasted to smithereens by the allure of time-saving shortcuts. Call me a closet sloth, or simply a lazy person in denial, but the sad fact of the matter is that when flavor and convenience are forced to battle head to head for my allegiance (and particularly when there’s something good on TV), no amount of shame, guilt or rationalization will ever compel me to willingly choose the hard way to cook.
Every once in a while, though, the universe takes pity on me and sends a recipe my way that doesn’t force me to make that choice. A recipe like this, one that offers the perfect balance of taste and efficiency, is the equivalent of a straight flush in the kitchen – it’s elusive, tremendously valuable and really should be milked for all it’s worth. I stumbled upon such a recipe a few weeks ago, a preparation for quinces that first had me skeptical, but then got me so excited I couldn’t think of anything else until I tried it. Now, those of you who have cooked with quinces know that they’re normally a big-effort item: they’re hard as moon rocks, require the potential sacrifice of digits to peel and core, yet have to be cooked well in order to be edible. For most quince-lovers this effort/outcome ratio may be acceptable; for a person as lazy as me, however, it has resulted in far less quince consumption than I would have liked throughout my life. There was, of course, that membrillo last year which was based on what seemed to me then like a nearly effortless preparation, but when I discovered I could buy it cheaply nearby even that recipe seemed like entirely too much bother.
This recipe, though, makes that one look like brain surgery. Not only is it so simple a two-year-old could do it, but for the complete lack of effort required the result is quinces in not just one but two utterly delicious forms. The idea comes from one of the UK’s hottest names at the moment, Skye Gyngell, chef at the Petersham Nurseries Café and the food editor for British Vogue. Skye not only has a new book out which is simply gorgeous, she has also started writing for the Independent, which is where her recent piece on quinces was published. This brilliant recipe (if it can even be called that) consists of washing a number of quinces, placing them in a baking dish with some water and sugar, covering it tightly with foil, and then going and relaxing in front of the television for approximately three hours. Actually, you could use that time for anything you want – Christmas shopping, blog-browsing, soaking in a hot bubble bath – the point is it’s completely up to you, but whatever you do, when your timer dings you will not only have the most luscious softly-yielding braised quinces to eat in any way you like, but also a fragrant ruby syrup Skye terms ‘quince cordial’, which when topped with a splash of prosecco or champagne, will easily be the hit of your next party. At which, by the way, when confronted with raves you hopefully won’t admit to your guests just how easy it was to make. You see, that’s the thing about laziness – it’s perfectly harmless as long as no one finds out.
Braised Quinces and Quince Cordial
Yield: about 4 cups cordial; recipe can easily be halved
8-12 whole quinces (depending on size)
3 1/2 cups/900ml water
1 3/4 cups/350g sugar
few strips lemon zest
First heat the oven to 160C/325F. Wash and pat dry the quinces. You can halve them if they’re particularly large, but you can also leave them whole. Place in a baking tray and pour the water on top and sprinkle over the sugar and lemon zest. Cover the tray tightly with aluminium foil and roast in the oven for around three hours. You will know it’s ready when the quinces are completely soft and the cooking syrup is a deep ruby-pink – leave them in the oven a bit longer if necessary. Take the tray out of the oven, remove the cooked fruit and strain the syrup into a jug or jar. Allow to cool completely before using. Both will keep well in the fridge for at least a couple of weeks.
To eat the braised quinces, simply remove the papery peel and cut the soft fruit from the core. You can use the fruit in many dessert recipes that call for poached quince, or you can enjoy it on its own with a little yogurt and honey, or some vanilla ice cream. The cordial is delicious combined to taste with chilled champagne or prosecco, or if you’re going the non-alcoholic route, simply some sparkling water and ice.
21 thoughts on “Quinces, the Lazy Way”
Well, as you say, there’s nothing wrong with laziness as long as nobody finds out. I’ve certainly used my fair share of things like garlic powder and tinned anchovy, after all. :)As for the quince cordial, it looks wonderful, and I’m wondering if you would consider it a winter drink? That is, there’s snow outside on the ground, and I’m not sure making bright red drinks to mix with champagne over ice is what I should do the next time I have friends over, but it sounds so good!
Colin – To my mind, anything with champagne is a year-round drink! 🙂 But champagne aside, there are plenty of cold drinks that crop up at holiday parties, and this cordial with its beautiful ruby color seems like quite a Christmas natural. Not to mention that quinces themselves are most definitely a fall/winter fruit, so I think you’d be perfectly justified serving it even with snow on the ground.
I saw the name Skye Gyngell here and there couple of times before I left, but didn’t know she has a cookbook out.Your quinces look gorgeous, the colour is soooo beautiful! I made membrillo recently, but my quinced didn’t turn ruby red at all, just light shade of reddish brown:(
dear melissa, i think the phrase "crafty cook" sounds so much nicer than "lazy cook" 😉 i, for one, am all for passing off slothful shortcut-taking ways as sheer cunning…what a brilliant recipe – the very best sort, in fact, that looks terribly complicated and involved yet is in reality a snap!
And avid reader of this blog delurks to say thanks so much for this Melissa, I think it the cordial will be used as my holiday gift that I bring to people’s houses. And perhaps you should start and international chapter of Lazy Cook’s Anonymous, as I know there are many of us who would be eligible for membership… ;)Also I wanted to let you know that Justin Quek’s book is available to be shipped to the US through Selectbooks.com, albeit for a hefty shipping fee. I have been wanting to send it to my cousin who I know would love it but haven’t worked up to spending the $35 on shipping alone…
These photos are just beautiful. We don’t see quinces around here, so I’ll have to content myself with looking. The reds are just gorgeous.
I just tried this a few hours ago, using vanilla sugar in place of plain and leaving out the lemon rind. It smells lovely and looks suitably pink. Thanks
Oh my goodness, what a gorgeous photo! Stunning.I might have to reconsider the quince.
Hi Melissa,I recently dared to make quince jam for the very first time. My parents were thrilled with the result. They said it tasted like the old days. That’s usually a big compliment. I am glad I discovered this new fruit and lots of recipes for it as it turns out. I will add yours to my list because it sounds lovely lazy!Greetings from Holland,Marieke
oh, damn, this really is lazier than my version of a quince dessert. There you have to halve the quinces and cover them with grated sour apples. The rest is the same. I am won over!
Finally – a girl after my own heart. If you can buy it, use it. Bring on the stock cubes and ready frozen pastry…
Well, I made the quinces and the cordial almost immediately after you posted this entry. The quinces were delicious, and the quince-champagne cordial was very tasty, if a bit sweet for my palate. I also had to increase the champagne-to-quince ratio to about two-to-one because I found the drink to be too syrupy.Overall, it turned out great! Thanks!
I have never had braised quinces, but that wonderful red color — too glorious to resist! Who cares if it’s easy to make?!
Hi Melissa,I need to use up my quinces before I leave for a trip – do you think the braised quinces will last four weeks in the fridge until I’m back? Or is it possible to freeze them without ending up with a mush?Thanks in advance!EVA
Hi Eva – While they might last in the fridge for four weeks, I think I’d freeze. I haven’t done it myself, but I looked around online and several people report cooking and freezing quince segments with no problem. Let me know how you like them!
Thanks for your advice, Melissa! I’ll braise them tonight and then I’ll have to wait a terribly long time… But maybe I should try a little bit first – just to know if the texture changes..;-)
I know this is an old post but I just came across it as I have a few quinces left from the nearly half bushel I culled from my tree and even after giving half of those away! I have made a quince and cranberry chutney that I may share with the in-laws at next week's Thanksgiving dinner but this one is calling me. I hope the quinces are still intact enough to make this – it would be a shame to have to wait until next year. Thanks (belatedly) for a beautiful post and those exquisite photos!
Fantastic use of quinces, I tried a smaller version 2 large quinces, quartered, 2 cups of water & 1.30 cups of sugar in a small oven dish covered with Foil, cooked 160C, 3 hrs ,juice still not reduced enough, I may do this separately, but what a beautiful light rich pink colour, fruit soft and delicious, highly recommend readers try this method.Thanks
Hi Melissa! I've just tried this recipe of yours and its brilliant! I can believe how great the cordial taste. Previous to trying it I wasn't a big fan of quinces, but I think it's the texture that I didn't like. I'm going to use the recipe for a blog post I'm doing this week, that's how much I love it! Thanks xx
Thanks for the cordial idea, I wanted to make that this year, wonderful! My kitchen is full of the perfume of cooking quinces….
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