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Help! I've bought quince and white asapargus!

There's nothing to link the dishes I've been making recently, other than the usual desperate need (I love the sound best before dates make as they rush past)  to clear out the oddments that I found in the back of my cupboard and fridge before they achieve sentience and try to take over the world.

Having previously slated London's Borough Market for not having enough to please veggies and vegans, I'm being forced to change my opinions. While I maintain it's not overly burdened with lovely veg*n treats, you can't beat it as a place to pick up some phenomenal veg.

I managed to unburden one of the veggie stalls of a bunch of yellow tomatoes (if I call them sungold to they sound a bit fancier?) and a bunch of great white asparagus.

I love white asparagus when someone else prepares it, but I've only tried making it at home once. It was tough, and I didn't bother again. Turns out, you're meant to peel the stems of white asparagus before you cook it, so eating it doesn't feel like wrestling pipe cleaners down your gullet. What, you knew that? Really? It was a surprise to me! I know, I know, next I'll be asking for you to heat up my gazpacho or something.

Anyway, what do you do with (peeled) white asparagus, yellow tomatoes, too much broccoli and not enough time? You stick it all in the oven, roast it, and cover it with a mixture of breadcrumbs, ground pumpkin seeds and lemon rind.

Another week in Borough, I availed myself of another ingredient which had always been a bit of a mystery to me: the quince.

Aside from enjoying a bit of membrillo, I've never eaten or cooked with a quince. My only knowledge of quince comes from Edward Lear's poem The Owl and the Pussycat: "they dined on mince/ And slice of quince/ Which they ate with a runcible spoon." (If you don't know the poem, you need to remedy that. It's here!)

With two quinces and no runcible spoon in sight, I decided to get help from the spice cupboard.

I studded the quinces with cloves, and baked them face down in a mix of water, sugar and a couple of points of star anise.

It Kind of looks like something that should be on a pathologist's table, right?

Despite the kind of gory look of it, it was sweet and heady and far more interesting that baked fruit has a right to be. My only regret was not having enough custard on hand to drown this in the sauce-tsunami it deserved.

With the rest of the quince, I decided to make a pipián stew. It's a Mexican recipe that uses pumpkin seeds to make a big rich sauce that tastes uncommonly good. I got the recipe from the Wahaca cookbook my parents gave me for Christmas, where it's put to use covering butternut squash and, yes, quince. Alas, the recipe's not online, but search for 'pipián' and you'll get lots of alternatives.

I was stunned by how good the Wahaca pipián stew was. If left unsupervised, I would have been quite happy to down a pint of it. Instead, I had to content myself with craftily licking the bowl clean. Alas, quince doesn't reheat well, so if you fancy making pipián yourself, you'll just have to eat the whole lot in one go.

Take my word for it, eating a whole bowl of pipián is really no great hardship.

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  1. I once heard a story on NPR (National Public Radio) about quince paste, and how wonderful it was - I have never seen them in markets here, but glad to know you have them. White asparagus is something else I've never tried!

  2. I bought several quince with the intention of making quince paste or jam, but they are still sitting in my fridge. I fear I may be making compost instead.

  3. I have not tried either of these very interesting bits of produce but the roasted asparagus with broccoli and breadcrumbs sounds great. Does white asparagus have a different taste?
    Love the Edward Lear poem - there is a food zine based in D.C. called Runcible Spoon!

  4. I haven't tried either quince or white asparagus, you make them sound so very interesting and tasty. Now I have to be on the lookout for them. :-)

  5. Both quince and white asparagus are such rare treats! I can simply never find quinces, no matter the season, so I can only drool over the idea of poaching them in sugar and warm spices. Of course, I would reach for the ice cream to finish them off, rather than custard. ;)

  6. never heard of pipian but am very fond of quince - my mum used to make quince jelly every year when I was young and the taste of quince pushes lots of nostalgic buttons - I love it with stewed apple in a crumble (with custard is of course excellent). I am quite interested in the idea of quince in savoury dishes but this is the road less travelled for me so will have a look for pipian. As for white asparagus - it in interesting but only in that odd way - what is wrong with green? :-)

  7. I fairly recently tried quince for the first time. It's one of those foods I only heard about while half paying attention to the food network. I liked it!

    Beautiful picture of the roasted white asparagus magic. So many colourful veggies. Mmm.

  8. I too had quince just recently; it was in jam and the texture was...interesting.


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