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.


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

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

21 thoughts on “Quinces baked in honey

  1. Enquiring minds want to know! Thanks for elucidating the mystery of the runcible spoon, Lisa. I have no idea if or when quinces are in season around here, but will keep an eye out at the market. Bon appétit!

  2. Grrrr. No more quinces to be had up here. I shall have to dig my runcible spoon into some other delight. Oooh… that reminds me, chocolate mud cake in the cake tin, left over from dinner at the Dowager’s last night. Not as good, but not half bad either.

  3. I still need to get with the quince program, autumn is just a muck season this year. Love Lear, he was such a talented man. Did you know he was also a very accomplished landscape painter as well? I just want to visit the land where the bong tree grows. Maybe that’s where his wonderful imagination came from…..

    • Let’s take a trip to that land and see what there is to see! I didn’t know until a few weeks ago when one of his paintings popped up on an Antiques Roadshow episode. Very cool. He was quite the man hey? Yes, weather has been a bit nuts here too. We did have some cold days but today was abnormally warm. No global warming? Yeah right…

  4. “How pleasant to know Mr. Lear!” I used to check out his books from the library as a little girl. The runcible spoon was a favorite, though I never knew what it was. I also recall “the dong with the luminous nose” and “the pobble who has no toes.” And his wonderful drawings, of course.
    I have been eating Spanish quince paste with cheese this week. Mmm, mmm good.

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