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


A honey cake fit for a Pooh Bear

‘Pooh said goodbye affectionately to his fourteen pots of honey and hoped they were fifteen, and he and Rabbit went out into the Forest.’

Recently, I accidentally found myself with three kilograms of glorious honey. It may not have been Pooh’s fourteen pots but it did feel as if the gods of providence had smiled upon me.

This abundance of golden liquid ambrosia called for a honey cake. The weather had turned nasty so all and sundry were cooped up within the confines of the house. The Pied Piper smell of the melting honey, butter and sugar enticed lads of all sizes into the kitchen. ‘What is that smell?’ they whispered wondrously. This cake smelt of every good thing that ever existed.

The warmy woody spices balanced the cakes caramel like sweetness. Honey is a natural source of sugar but from what I have read, it isn’t necessarily a healthier sweetener when used in baking. However, when consumed in its raw and unheated state it contains antioxidants as well as anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. Maybe Pooh Bear really was a bear before his time but I am also sure that he wouldn’t have turned up his nose at a little smackeral of this moreish cake. Particularly if it was eleven o’clock.

GLUTEN FREE HONEY CAKE

WHAT YOU NEED
250g clear honey and 2 tbls extra for glazing
225g unsalted butter, chopped
80g dark sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
300g gluten free self-raising flour (or regular SR flour)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 140C and grease and line a 22cm springform tin.
Place the honey, butter and sugar into a medium saucepan and melt slowly over a low heat. When the mixture looks quite liquid, increase the heat and boil for one minute. Remove from heat and pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl.
Let the honey mixture cool down, this prevents the eggs cooking when they are added. (This took about half an hour.)
Once cooled, beat the eggs into the honey mixture using a wooden spoon.
Sift the flour and spices over the honey and egg mixture and beat until you have a smooth and quite runny batter.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 50 minutes until the cake is risen well, golden and springs back to the touch. A skewer inserted into the cake should come out clean.
Let the cake cool for 5 minutes in the pan then turn onto a wire rack.
Warm the 2 tbl of reserved honey and brush over the top of the cake to give it a sticky glaze. Allow to cool. Then eat a smackeral around eleven o’clock in the morning. You won’t regret it.
Store wrapped, in an airtight container.

Cooking Notes
If you don’t require this cake to be gluten free, simply use the same amount of regular plain self-raising flour.

A Cheergerm adaptation a recipe from the BBC Good Food website. Link provided after photos.

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1840/devonshire-honey-cake

The leading quote comes from AA Milnes beloved and charming children’s novel ‘The House at Pooh Corner.’