Monthly Archives: October 2011


Most of the time, I use this space on WordPress to keep notes, which can later be used to jog my memory, or at least accurately populate a shopping list. And then sometimes, it seems to encourage me to do foolish things that take time and make mess. This is one of those foolish things, but as foolish things go, it’s damned tasty.

You will need a copy of Jane Grigson’s Fruit Book, for therein are many wonderful things, including this. The quinces came from The Creaky Shed. They were very furry (a polite way of saying a bit mouldy) so needed a good wash and scrub.

They need to be hacked up, and this requires a certain amount of caution as they are hard and slippery. In the end a large serrated bread knife seemed to do the trick. You can see how rapidly they discoloured.

Icky bits discarded, and thence into the pot.

They need to be brought to the boil, and simmered until soft. This may take an hour. It may take three. So far so good. This isn’t too hard, you think. This isn’t too messy or demanding, you think. Now, you’ve got to push those stewed quinces through a sieve. This is a lot of work, and the results look like baby food, or possibly something else baby related.

In the end, 1.5 kilos of quinces, minus icky bits, yielded 864 grams of pulp. Back into the pot with an equal weight of sugar.

And feel slightly scared as it starts to resemble lava. Regular stirring to avoid burning on the bottom. If you need to destroy The One Ring, now is your chance.

Finally, heave it into a dish, lined with baking paper.

After an overnight stay in the oven at 50°C (central heating turned off) it comes out darker.

And then finally sliced up, with the baking paper left on the underneath. Mrs Grigson reckons it ought to keep six months in an airtight container, but somehow I don’t think it will survive to the other side of Christmas.


DIY Baked Beans

This is very easy, but takes time. Elapsed time that is – there’s barely ten minutes’ work but it is spread out over twenty four hours.

  • 250g dried Haricot beans
  • 400g total of diced carrots, onion and celery (or whatever you happen to have to hand)
  • one 400g tin of chopped tomatoes (with the juice!)
  • a handful (75g) of finely diced bacon
  • some herbs (I used a bunch of fresh thyme on this occasion)

Here’s what I do:

  1. soak the beans overnight in cold water (won’t hurt if they stay soaking until you get back from work the following day)
  2. put the beans in a change of water, and bring to a savage boil for fifteen minutes, reduce to a gentle bubble and leave for 45 minutes, but an hour won’t hurt – you could chuck in a bay leaf if you wanted to keep them company in the simmering phase
  3. meanwhile, gently fry the bacon in a heavy casserole until it’s brown and most of the fat has oozed out
  4. add the chopped veg, and a glug of olive oil, and continue to fry (you could use butter instead of olive oil for a more North European flavour)
  5. let the veg gently fry until they’re soft, and the onion is going gold around the edges; probably a good twenty minutes
  6. now is probably a good time to get the oven going at 150°C
  7. by now the beans should be starting to soften up, so drain them, and add to the casserole, reserving the cooking liquid
  8. add the tin of tomatoes, and then enough of the cooking liquid to cover
  9. there’s probably enough salt in the bacon, but taste, and add a touch more if you feel it’s warranted
  10. add the herbs, grind over some black pepper, give the pot a good stir and consign it to the oven

It will need around two hours. Not only are the beans continuing to cook, they’re soaking up liquid, and the rate at which they do this is known only unto themselves. So, keep an eye. If the liquid looks low, top up with some water from a freshly boiled kettle. At the ninety minute mark, have a taste – the beans need to be cooked through, so no grittiness. (Otherwise they will expand in your stomach and make you explode, at least that’s what my grandmother told me when I was small.)

Serve up as a posh side to sausages or duck, or a mid week supper in its own right.

Or wait ’til nobody’s watching and scoff it on toast with cheese on top.

You could of course add stuff. A splash of Worcester sauce wouldn’t hurt. You could replace the bacon with chorizo, and maybe add some garlic as well. Once you get going with the sausages and duck it becomes full blown cassoulet, which is glorious in its own right, but lacks the comforting simplicity of this dish.