meal fit for a feast
Stuffed quinces is a recipe walking a fine line between celebratory cooking and obscure medieval grandeur. Quinces, a somewhat awkward fruit, seem to be enjoying a timid comeback on food bloggers’ social media feeds and to be honest I am excited. Cooking with quinces will make you squeal with joy if you are into sweet-n-sour dishes. Stuffed quinces have a unique, elegant taste, certainly fit for a celebration.
Head straight to the recipe.
Generally speaking stuffing quinces is not the most widely known Greek recipe out there. My grandma Ntina, however, regards stuffed quinces as the wintertime equivalent of our very popular summer stuffed vegetables: tomatoes, peppers and aubergines, known as “yemista”. The dish has travelled far and wide. In Modern Greek cuisine stuffed quinces arrived from Persia through medieval Istanbul, the cultural and culinary crossroads of its time. There is certainly a Greek touch added to it, but little has changed since its arrival many many years ago.
Talking of medieval recipes, quince used to be all the rage throughout Europe. It used to be an excellent accompaniment to veal and pork stews alike. If you are into historic recipes, check these out here.
In the original Persian dish dolmeh ‘yeh beh, whole quinces are hollowed to make an edible container for the minced meat, which is seasoned with a magic spice mix called advieh. Advieh is not readily available in shops in Athens, despite how many spice shops there are around. Most recipes for advieh mention dried rose petals or buds as a base, cardamom, cinnamon and cumin. There are many regional variations of the spice blend that include anything from ginger, turmeric, nutmeg, clove and caraway seeds.
The Greek version has been tweaked to fit the common spices available in our kitchens such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. No rose petals I’m afraid; but we did keep the cardamom. In our case the cardamom is not ground. Whole seeds go into the mince and then removed before stuffing the fruits. We also removed the rice from the stuffing and added pine nuts instead and a good handful of raisins for extra sweetness.
Now I hear you ask: how do I go about making a hollow in these devils? Well, you don’t. No matter how delicious a whole stuffed quince sounds, I can assure you that the dense and tough flesh can be a nightmare to scoop out. So to make things simple you cut the quince in half (vertically!) and scoop out the core to remove the stones and a bit of the flesh with a sharp knife. You could use a sturdy melon baller if you have one. It’s much easier to tackle them this way.
And if can’t get your hands on quince worry not, you can replace them with green apples and apple sauce as a side.
Ingredients (for 6-8 people)
- 5 quinces (large)
- 500 gr of beef mince
- 2 small white onions
- 2/3 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground clove
- 3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
- 2 tbsp raisins,
- 120 ml orange juice
- 200 ml sweet red wine, like Mavrodafni or Nama
- 4-5 stalks of fresh parsley
- 1 lemon
- olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Use the quince flesh obtained from carved quince, I got approximately 300gr
- 70 ml of water
- 70 ml of orange juice
- 2 tbsp of honey
- 1 cinnamon stick
How to make it
Rinse off the quince to get rid of the fuzz and cut in half, vertically. Score around the seeds with a sharp knife and using a melon baller scoop out the flesh. Keep the quince flesh aside for the quince sauce. You should leave about 1 cm flesh around the edge and bottom. If the quince is very irregular and doesn’t stand on its own, remove a thin sliver from the bottom. Brush with a bit of lemon juice to avoid browning.
Finely chop the onions and sauté in medium heat for 5-6 minutes.
Add the mince meat and stir for 3-4 minutes, then add your seasoning: cinnamon, nutmeg cloves, salt and pepper, toasted pine nuts and raisins.
Finish off the sauce with sweet red wine, let it evaporate and switch off your hob. The stuffing should remain slightly moist.
Meanwhile you can prepare the quince sauce. In a small pot add the quince flesh with a cinnamon stick, the water, orange juice and sugar.
Stir and cover the pot with a lid. Simmer for approximately 10 minutes, until the flesh has softened up. If you prefer a smooth result, remove the cinnamon stick and pass the quince through a food processor.
Baking the quince
Preheat the oven at 190 ºC. Start filling the quince with the mince meat stuffing. Once all quince are in the baking tray, add a bit of water and the orange juice to prevent the fruit from drying out
Cover the tray with foil and bake for 40-45 minutes. After half an hour, check if the fruit is soft by piercing with a fork. The foil should be removed for the last 10 minutes to let the stuffing and quince brown.
You are read to serve along with a side of quince sauce. Enjoy with really good company.
Did you notice my lovely serving plate? I owe a huge thanks to Christina Skouloudi, very talented product designer for letting me present some of her wine ceremony pieces. You can find more of her work here.
From Athens with love,