Quinces baked in honey

‘They dined on mince, and slices of quince
Which they ate with a runcible spin
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon. ‘

An excerpt from the lyrical ‘The Owl and the Pussy-cat’ by Edward Lear. This nonsensical poem has always tickled my fancy. From the pea-green boat, the unlikely pairing of a cat and an owl to the mince, quince and runcible spoon. What on earth is a runcible spoon? Conjecture abounds and opinion is varied. (Yes, another hard hitting exposé from the Cheergerm. Not exactly a hot topic on Twitter but it still matters, right?) It is certainly a word that Lear made up and appears in several of his works in different connotations. There is a ‘runcible cat’, a ‘runcible hat’, a ‘runcible goose’ and a ‘runcible wall’.

Some dictionaries define a ‘runcible spoon’ as a fork with three curved tines, or a ‘spork’. In one of his accompanying illustrations, Lear actually drew the ‘runcible spoon’ as more of a ladle. Some believe that it was a spoon designed specifically for babies by one of Edward Lears friends, George Runcy. However, this does not explain the varied use of the word in his other poems. It is most likely a word that Lear invented purely because of the delicious way it sounds and not because it had any real meaning to him.

Quince is my current fruity obsession. This dish is baked long and slow in butter and floral pink-tinged honey, given by a friend. Dark in colour, achingly soft and sweet; you can definitely cut these quince with a spoon. Preferably a runcible spoon.

QUINCES BAKED IN HONEY

WHAT YOU NEED
3 large quinces, washed well
80g butter
4 tbl runny honey
1/4 cup water

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 150C.
Wash the quinces very well. Halve but do not peel the quinces then remove the pips and core each of them with a spoon to make a hollow. (This is not a job for wimps. Be warned.)
Place in a gratin dish that will hold them snugly (unlike mine) and using a third of the butter, grease the dish.
Arrange the quinces, hollow side up. Divide the remaining butter and honey between the hollows and pour water gently around the sides.
Cover the dish with foil and bake for at least 3 hours (denying on the size of the quinces) until they are soft and rich red. (Turn quinces over after 1 1/2 hours.)
Serve hot or warm with hollows filled with the honey juices and with cream, ice-cream , yoghurt or marscapone.

Recipe from The Cooks Companion by Stephanie Alexander , published by Penguins Books, 1996

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Chocolate chip biscuits and a hug

It was late and I had been lying next to my twelve year old lad with my arm draped over him. I stood and said good night, exhausted and ready to flop into the sweet comfort of bed and attempt some semblance of sleep.

Kid 2: Mum, could I please just have one more big proper hug?
Me: Oh mate, I just gave you a hug.
Kid 2: But this time I want a proper two-armed hug.
So, I leant down, scooped up his skinny little body and squeezed him hard. Cheek to cheek. I kissed him and told him I loved him.
As I stood to go he spoke these words to me.
‘I am so glad that I have your Mum hugs with me to go into the world. They make me feel strong and loved and special.’

Sometimes, I am grumpy, mean and tired. Sometimes, my children are grumpy, mean and tired. This motherhood gig isn’t always a lark. I am not whinging. I made my choice. I am also fully aware of all those women who have tried to become mothers and couldn’t, of mothers who mourn the loss of a child, of women who become stepmothers and all those in the sisterhood who have simply decided motherhood was not for them. Total respect and love to us all.

In the future, when feeling like everyone wants a piece of me, or the next time my children are feeling much the same way; I will think of the words from my ‘on the cusp of adolescence son’, take a deep breath, open my arms and just hug them.

These biscuits are on regular rotation in our household and are almost as good as a cuddle from a loved one. Using quality dark chocolate and a sprinkle of sea salt elevates them just a little past the ordinary, to the very bloody good. Happy Mother’s Day to all of us mothers, in whatever form that may take.

CHOCOLATE CHIP BISCUITS

125g butter
1/2 cup white caster sugar
1/2 cup soft brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence (or 1/4 tsp vanilla bean powder)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 3/4 cups self-raising flour
125g dark chocolate chopped (or 125g chocolate chips)
1 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 180C and line two trays with baking paper.
Cream together butter, sugars and vanilla until light and fluffy. (I use a stand mixer for this.)
Add egg gradually, beating well after each addition.
Mix in sifted flour then add the chocolate (or chocolate chips) and stir through well.
I often let this dough rest for half an hour or so before baking but it doesn’t matter if you don’t.
Shape large teaspoons of mixture into balls and place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Allow room for some spreading. Sprinkle a little sea salt atop each biscuit.
Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove the biscuits just as the edges start to colour so they don’t overcook and go too crunchy.
Makes about 15 to 20 biscuits, depending on how large you make them. (The photos in this post contain a double batch of these bikkies. Hence, the large amount.)

A recipe that a friend gave many years ago, slightly adapted.

Go here if you are looking for a gluten free chocolate chip biscuit recipe.


Quince and apple pudding, gluten free

A recent conversation with Kid 1, went like this.

Me: How does it feel to be turning twelve?
Kid 1: Oh, I’m really not that fussed about birthdays. Another year older, another year closer to death.
Me: Wow, that’s a bit of a downer!
Kid 1: Imagine how much worse it would be if I died before I even turned twelve? They could put on my tombstone ‘Kid 1. Never reached puberty.’ Or ‘Never been kissed.’
Kid 2 then chimed in. ‘Or never got a girls phone number. (The back story being that a girl gave him her number when he was a mere six years old. Nothing quite compares to beating your older brother in the romance stakes.)

The good news is that he made it to twelve. His sense of humour and unique view of the world is a constant joy to us. (And keeps us on our toes.) He was a big fan of these aromatic and autumnal wee puddings. The smell of the cooking quince was the musky, heady smell of an orchard full of every ripe fruit you could possibly ever imagine. This golden knobbly produce starts out as rock hard and with slow, gentle cooking, morphs into soft, sweet delectable flavoured fruit with pale pink to deep ruby colour flesh. (The longer and slower it is cooked, the deeper red it becomes.)

Adding a modicum of tart green apple adds a welcome sharpness and when topped off with a subtly spiced gluten free sponge, this is a fabulous wee pudding indeed.

Happy Birthday Kid 1, I promise to make these again for you soon.

QUINCE AND APPLE PUDDING, GLUTEN FREE

WHAT YOU NEED
2 large quinces
1 lemon
1 large Apple, peeled and chopped into 2-3 cm pieces
1 large knob of butter
1 cup water
2 tbl soft brown sugar
Pudding topping
60g butter, room temperature
50g soft brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
100g plain gluten free flour
50g ground almonds
2 tsps gf baking powder
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp vanilla bean powder or 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 cup milk

HOW YOU DO IT
Squeeze the lemon and place in a bowl full of water. Peel and chop the quince into 2-3 cm cubes and place immediately into water, this stops the quince discolouring.
Place the quince, butter, brown sugar and 1/4 of a cup of the water into a medium saucepan. Cook the quince on a low heat for about 30 to 40 minutes, once it starts to soften, add the apple and cook for another 20 minutes until the apple just starts to soften. Check regularly to ensure the water doesn’t dry out, replenish if it does.
Whilst the fruit is cooking. Preheat the oven to 180C and butter six small ramekins or tins or one large 1 litre pie dish.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. (Add vanilla essence if using here.)
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each.
Sift the gluten free flour, almond meal, baking powder, mixed spice and vanilla bean powder.
Fold the flour mixture and milk alternately into the egg mixture to make a soft batter.
Divide the cooked fruit between the tins then cover with the topping.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until well risen, firm and golden brown. (A one litre pie dish may take more like 30 minutes.)
Serve hot with cream, ice-cream or yoghurt. Kid 1 also loves them cold for a breakfast treat as well.

A Cheergerm recipe, the sponge batter adapted from a Stephanie Alexander recipe.