September brings an array of produce from the kitchen garden that ruins my dreams of summer lasting forever and steadily moves us into autumn. If there was ever a clear sign that things are slowing down, it is a ripe yellow quince being brought into the kitchen. Other fruits such as the early cropping Discoveries, Greenacres and Gladstone apples and the vegetables like squashes, pumpkins, celeriac and the larger leaved brassicas all convey the same message. The shift of ingredients doesn’t just change the components of the dishes, but also the feel of the whole menu that becomes more comforting. There are the last of the refreshing and delicate flavours of summer still around with courgettes (not being allowed to mature into marrows), heritage tomatoes, the full array of delicious flowers and young leeks and root vegetables. The dying down of wild plants also exposes large patches of wood sorrel under the trees with other forages items such as the rowan berries, bramble berries, cobnuts and damsons in large quantities.
Here is a recipe we use to make our own quince cheese. The recipe uses rowan berries from the estate that fruits at the same time to our quince. Eating raw rowan berries will give you serious stomach upsets, but heating destroys the acid irritant and makes them completely safe. It is best to use late berries as they have a better colour and flavour, although they have a lower pectin content. The rowan gives the sweet cheese another dimension of taste with its tart Seville orange like bitterness, and a more vibrant red colour. You could also use crab apples instead of the quince.
Mix 500g of water with the juice of 1 lemon in a large, thick pan and add 1.5 kilos of roughly chopped quince (first wash all the velvety fluff from the outsides, but chop and use all the rest of the fruit) and 500g of rowan berries. Heat this straight away and cook down to a pulp. Blend using a stick blender to break down further, then pass through a fine conical sieve using a small ladle to force the pulp through. Discard anything that does not make it through the sieve. Weigh the passed pulp out and then add an equal amount of sugar and the pulp to the same pan and cook until the jam setting point is reached. Pour the mix into an oiled tray lined with oiled grease proof paper and bake in the oven at 80 degrees C for 6 hours until the mix is set. Cool, cut into cubes, and then store in the fridge in an air tight container wrapped in the greased paper. You could also pour it into jam jars, bake them in the oven at 80 degrees C instead of in the tray, and then wax paper and lid them to preserve for longer. Delicious with a piece of local Sussex Crumble or Brighton Blue cheese, with cold roasted meats, or by dissoling into a meaty gravy/jus to enrich.
George and his team look forward to welcoming you to the restaurant very soon, to book please call 01342 810567.
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At the Manor News
Join us at Gravetye this autumn for a kitchen garden talk with our Head Chef George or a garden talk with writer Anna Pavord, alternatively take advantage of our special Autumn Harvest offer…