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Pomegranate-Poached Quinces

by . Featured in COOK EAT REPEAT
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Introduction

There is something magical about these poached quinces with their soft, scented terracotta-tinted flesh and pomegranate-perfumed syrup. While I eagerly make them from November onwards, as soon as the quinces come into season, they are so fabulously festive cooked like this, decoratively demanding a place at your Christmas table.

Don’t get misled by the fact that they’re fruit: this may read like a light dessert, but it's headily intense, and best eaten in smallish portions. Having said that, however, I often serve it with the Luscious Vegan Gingerbread for pud. And one last thing: these quinces are completely heavenly, too, if you swap out the pomegranate juice for Muscat or other deliciously honeyed dessert wine.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

There is something magical about these poached quinces with their soft, scented terracotta-tinted flesh and pomegranate-perfumed syrup. While I eagerly make them from November onwards, as soon as the quinces come into season, they are so fabulously festive cooked like this, decoratively demanding a place at your Christmas table.

Don’t get misled by the fact that they’re fruit: this may read like a light dessert, but it's headily intense, and best eaten in smallish portions. Having said that, however, I often serve it with the Luscious Vegan Gingerbread for pud. And one last thing: these quinces are completely heavenly, too, if you swap out the pomegranate juice for Muscat or other deliciously honeyed dessert wine.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

Image of Nigella's Pomegranate-Poached Quinces
Photo by Jonathan Lovekin

Ingredients

Serves: 6

Metric Cups
  • 700 millilitres pomegranate juice (from a bottle is fine)
  • 300 millilitres cold water
  • 350 grams caster sugar
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon pink peppercorns
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme (plus more to decorate)
  • 3 quinces
  • 2 - 3 x 15ml tablespoons pomegranate seeds (to sprinkle over)
  • scant 3 cups pomegranate juice (from a bottle is fine)
  • 1¼ cups cold water
  • 1¾ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon pink peppercorns
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme (plus more to decorate)
  • 3 quinces
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds (to sprinkle over)

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 160°C/140°C Fan/325°F. Get out a large, heavy-based casserole that has a lid, and into it pour the pomegranate juice and water, and add the sugar, watching it mesmerised as the white sugar is engulfed by the rubied liquid. Well, you don’t have to watch, but I do.
  2. Stir well, add the bay leaves, pink peppercorns and a few sprigs of thyme, leaving the daintier sprigs for later, then stir again and set over low heat. You can leave it warming while you get the quinces ready.
  3. Peel and quarter the quinces and then, carefully, core them. I sometimes, out of exhaustion or laziness, leave the cores in; the almost ethereal aroma of quinces never quite prepares one for their stony solidity. Unless you happen to have small quinces, cut the cored quarters in half lengthways. Add the prepared quinces to the pan as you go, as they’ll brown quickly when exposed to the air.
  4. When all the quinces are in the pan, turn the heat up. Once it starts boiling, scrunch up a piece of baking parchment slightly bigger than the diameter of the pan, unscrunch it again, and press it down on top of the quinces, tucking it in and up the sides of the pan. Clamp on the lid, and stagger over to the oven.
  5. Cook for 1½–2 hours, until the quinces feel tender when you prong a few with the tines of a small fork. Remove the lid and the baking parchment, and, with a couple of spoons, turn the quinces over in their red liquid before leaving them to cool. I often make these a couple of days in advance and just leave the quinces in the pomegranate syrup, darkening ruddily as they sit.
  6. Not long before you’re ready to serve them, remove 150ml/⅔ cup of the syrup (use a heat-resistant glass measuring jug) and pour into a small saucepan. Set the pan over high-ish heat, bring to a bubble and keep it bubbling, watching over it the whole time, until it has reduced by half. I keep the glass measuring jug right by the hob so that I can keep checking. When the garnet-glinting syrup is viscous and reduced, and you have 75ml/⅓ cup of it, leave it to cool. If you have space in your freezer, you can strain the rest of the poaching liquid, bag or tub it up and keep it for repeat performances. Or strain it, reduce it by half and keep it to pour over ice cream, or to scent pears or apples for pies or crumbles, or indeed, add to cocktails as you wish.
  7. Using a slotted spoon, convey the quinces to a shallow bowl or plate with a slight lip, shaking your cargo gently over the pan as you go, so that you don’t get too much liquid into your dish. Drizzle over the syrup, and scatter with pomegranate seeds and fresh thyme sprigs. Serve with real crème fraîche or oat-milk crème fraîche.
  1. Heat the oven to 160°C/140°C Fan/325°F. Get out a large, heavy-based casserole that has a lid, and into it pour the pomegranate juice and water, and add the sugar, watching it mesmerised as the white sugar is engulfed by the rubied liquid. Well, you don’t have to watch, but I do.
  2. Stir well, add the bay leaves, pink peppercorns and a few sprigs of thyme, leaving the daintier sprigs for later, then stir again and set over low heat. You can leave it warming while you get the quinces ready.
  3. Peel and quarter the quinces and then, carefully, core them. I sometimes, out of exhaustion or laziness, leave the cores in; the almost ethereal aroma of quinces never quite prepares one for their stony solidity. Unless you happen to have small quinces, cut the cored quarters in half lengthways. Add the prepared quinces to the pan as you go, as they’ll brown quickly when exposed to the air.
  4. When all the quinces are in the pan, turn the heat up. Once it starts boiling, scrunch up a piece of baking parchment slightly bigger than the diameter of the pan, unscrunch it again, and press it down on top of the quinces, tucking it in and up the sides of the pan. Clamp on the lid, and stagger over to the oven.
  5. Cook for 1½–2 hours, until the quinces feel tender when you prong a few with the tines of a small fork. Remove the lid and the baking parchment, and, with a couple of spoons, turn the quinces over in their red liquid before leaving them to cool. I often make these a couple of days in advance and just leave the quinces in the pomegranate syrup, darkening ruddily as they sit.
  6. Not long before you’re ready to serve them, remove 150ml/⅔ cup of the syrup (use a heat-resistant glass measuring jug) and pour into a small saucepan. Set the pan over high-ish heat, bring to a bubble and keep it bubbling, watching over it the whole time, until it has reduced by half. I keep the glass measuring jug right by the hob so that I can keep checking. When the garnet-glinting syrup is viscous and reduced, and you have 75ml/⅓ cup of it, leave it to cool. If you have space in your freezer, you can strain the rest of the poaching liquid, bag or tub it up and keep it for repeat performances. Or strain it, reduce it by half and keep it to pour over ice cream, or to scent pears or apples for pies or crumbles, or indeed, add to cocktails as you wish.
  7. Using a slotted spoon, convey the quinces to a shallow bowl or plate with a slight lip, shaking your cargo gently over the pan as you go, so that you don’t get too much liquid into your dish. Drizzle over the syrup, and scatter with pomegranate seeds and fresh thyme sprigs. Serve with real crème fraîche or oat-milk crème fraîche.

Additional Information

MAKE AHEAD:
Poach quinces up to 2 days ahead, cover and refrigerate.

STORE:
Refrigerate leftover quinces, covered, for up to 3 days. Reduced syrup only keeps for an extra week, covered, in the fridge.

FREEZE:
Freeze poached quinces in syrup or reduced syrup only in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge.

MAKE AHEAD:
Poach quinces up to 2 days ahead, cover and refrigerate.

STORE:
Refrigerate leftover quinces, covered, for up to 3 days. Reduced syrup only keeps for an extra week, covered, in the fridge.

FREEZE:
Freeze poached quinces in syrup or reduced syrup only in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge.

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