AUTUMN FRUIT


Autumn brings with it the arrival of quince, fresh figs and pomegranates. Most people seem to ignore these fruits but for any serious cook they can be an endless source of inspiration and I always look forward to having them in season.


Steeped in history and romance and almost in a class by itself, the pomegranate is a symbol of fertility in many countries and a very popular fruit all over the mediterranean to the Middle East; the "Granada", as it is known in Spain, is a round fruit with a thick, leathery red skin.
Inside it contains large white seeds that are covered in small sacks of pinkish-red juicy sweet pulp. It is fiddly to eat but the juice is well worth extracting for refreshing, long drinks or to marinate and flavour chicken, lamb or game. It is regarded to be a tenderiser for meat and the juice is also used to flavour the sickly-sweet French liquor "Grenadine".  Loosen the flesh by rolling the whole pomegranate on a hard surface, pressing down with your hand. Then cut in half and scoop out the centre with a spoon. Remove the white pith, as it is bitter. Alternatively, eat the flesh straight from the skin. To extract the juice, place the seeds in a sieve and press with the back of a spoon or use a lemon squeezer. Rich in potassium, vitamin C, polyphenols and vitamin B6, pomegranates are real phytochemical powerhouses. Pomegranate juice may have two to three times the antioxidant power of equal amounts of green tea or red wine.Pomegranates combine well with walnuts, figs, bananas, cream cheese and pistachios. A simple orange salad can be transformed into something special with the addition of a few pomegranate seeds.


Membrillo”(Quince), when fully ripe, can fill a room with the most unbelievable fragrance. It is a rustic cousin to apples and pears with much the same shape as an apple with but a harder skin. Quince is often referred to as the cook's fruit as it cannot be eaten raw. It makes exceptionally good jellies and jams as it contains large amounts of pectin, which makes it ideal for preserves. The Spanish serve quince jelly with cheese, but you can also add diced "membrillo" to casseroles and stews or as a puree with poultry and game. It is said that quince was sacred to Aphrodite, the goddess of love, as a symbol of happiness, love and fertility.  

I personally hate dried or stewed figs, but fresh Figs have a magnificent sweet fragrant flavour and are best eaten slightly warm. They can be simply roasted with honey and work well with orange, port, ginger, strawberries, almonds and chocolate. Good quality, thinly sliced Serrano ham with crusty bread and fresh figs makes a fabulous snack or light lunch. They are perfect partners for foie gras, duck, smoked meats, pates and they can also be thrown into a salad with blue cheese and walnuts.

EASY POMEGRANATE Y MANGO SALSA

Ingredients

1            fresh mango, peeled and diced
3            sprigs fresh mint, chopped
1            large sprig coriander, chopped
1            lime, juiced
2            spring onions, finely sliced
1            pomegranate, cut in half, skin removed and seed contents separated
1tsp            clear honey
3-4            small tomatoes, seeded and diced
1            lemongrass stalk, 
½            red chilli, de-veined and de-seeded, finely chopped (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and season.




TARTA DE ALMENDRAS Y HIGOS FRESCOS
FIG AND ALMOND TART
Frangipane, a rich almond-flavoured filling and is used in many pastries and cakes. You could substitute the fresh figs for poached pears, peaches or apricots.

INGREDIENTS:            Serves: 8

10                    fresh figs (peeled)
20                        freshly peeled whole almonds

 SWEET PASTRY:

450g                        plain flour
                        Pinch of salt
150g                        icing sugar
200g                        cold butter (diced)
3                        egg yolks


FANGIPANE
6                      egg yolks
150g                       ground almonds
130g                sugar
50g                 flour
10g                 corn flour
500ml              milk
1                     vanilla pod (split)


For the sweet pastry:
Place the butter, flour and salt in a food processor and pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and egg yolks and pulse again, just enough to incorporate the eggs. Scrap out the pastry and wrap in cling film. Place in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to about 3mm thick.
Line a 20cm tart ring with the pastry and rest in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.

To make the frangipane:

Place the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and whisk until light and fluffy. Add the flour, ground almonds and corn lour. Mix well.
Bring the milk to the boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan with the vanilla pod. As soon as the milk starts to bubble, pour half onto the egg yolk mixture, stirring all the time. Pour this mixture back into the pan with the rest of the milk and return to the heat. Cook out over a gentle flame, stirring continuously for 2-3 minutes until the mixture thickens. Pass the thick custard through a fine sieve and leave to cool.

Place the chilled frangipane to the pastry case. Then, using a palette knife or the back of a spoon, level the surface. Cut the figs in half lengthways and press them lightly into the filling, scatter the whole almonds on top and dust lightly with icing sugar.
place in a hot oven ( 180cº/350fº/gas6) for 25-30 minutes until the frangipane is cooked and the top is lightly caramelised.



MEMBRILLO (QUINCE JELLY)

 This is a great accompaniment for hard and semi-smoked Spanish cheeses like the Mallorcan "grimalt" or "manchego", "idiazabel" or "roncal". You can also spread it on your toast for breakfast.

1KL                        Fresh quince (peeled and diced)
800G                        sugar
1                        vanilla pod (split)
800ml                        water


Place all the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pan and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook over a gentle flame, stirring occasionally, for 60- 70 minutes until thick. Pour into a plastic container and leave to set in the refrigerator for 24 hours.


POMEGRANATE MARINATED SHOULDER OF LAMB

Ingredients:                        Serves 4


2                        shoulders of lamb           
150ml                        Pomegranate juice
6                        cumin seeds
100ml                        Dry red wine
2                          Large red onions
1                          Lemon (chopped)
3                         Cloves garlic
10                        Black peppercorns (ground)
10                        fresh basil leaves (torn)
Pinch of salt

 
In blender, combine pomegranate juice, red wine, onions, lemon, garlic, pepper, basil and salt. Rub some of marinade well into lamb. Place the shoulders in shallow glass or enamel pan. Pour the remaining marinade over meat. Marinate in refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours or overnight.
When ready to cook, wipe off excess marinade.
Roast the lamb shoulders in a hot oven (200cº/400fº/gas6) for 20 minutes.
Reduce the heat to a moderate (160cº/220fº/gas 4) heat and cook for 40-45 minutes, basting now and again with the marinade.

Leave to rest 5 to 10 minutes before carving.

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