Quince is most commonly used to make codonyat/membrillo, the sweet, paste-like jam served with hard cheeses like Manchego, and softer dessert-cheeses like Tetilla de Galicia. It also partners well with slow-cooked game bird dishes like duck and goose, and the robustly flavoured though not for the squeamish, wood-cock (becada) that is also in season now and traditionally served un-gutted; its intestines or ‘trail’ spread on toast. But if none of that takes your fancy, you can always just pop your quince in a bowl and leave them to scent your home with their ripe, heady aromas: far more “green” than air freshener.
Duck with Quince (Serves 4)
This dish comes from Claudia Roden’s book Tamarind & Saffron and makes a lovely, cheery winter warmer.
Take 4 large duck legs, season with salt and pepper and bake skin side up on a rack for about 30 minutes, or until the skin is crisp. Remove from the fat reserving some of the juices. Meanwhile boil a pan of water with the juice of one lemon and add 1 large quince (peeled, cored and quartered). Simmer until tender but not mushy, drain and when cool cut each quarter into threes. When the duck is nearly ready fry the quince slices in butter or duck fat until caramelised and golden.
Prepare a sauce using 2 tablespoons of duck fat, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, the juice of 1.5 lemons and 2 tablespoons of honey. Assemble the duck and the quince slices, and pour the sauce over the top. TS
November’s sweet colourful roots are full of the carbs and vitamins needed to see us through winter. In Spain, parsnips (chirivía; in Catalan, xirivia) are often quite sad, small and wrinkly—perhaps because they need a good frost to be at their best. However, if you can find some fat, firm ones, try them roasted. Peel and cut into thick fingers, brush with honey or maple syrup and toss in spices such as cumin and coriander before roasting in a hot oven. Their sweetness also combines well with apples or carrots in creamy soups; mashed, they’re a lower-calorie alternative to potatoes.
Beetroots (remolacha; in Catalan, remolatxa) are also in season and thrive under similar treatment to parsnips. A good-sized one, roasted whole, cooled, then peeled, sliced and sprinkled with balsamic vinegar and rock salt is a wonderful accompaniment to mature cheeses. Grown generally in coastal areas, the beetroot has relatively high sodium levels, so it should be avoided or eaten in moderation by those on low sodium diets.
A tip: if you’re buying a bunch of beetroot to keep for a few days, get the greengrocer to cut off the leaves because they suck the moisture from the roots. And a curious fact: for some people who don’t possess a particular enzyme in their digestive systems, the bright red colour of the beetroot is the same on the way out as on the way in! KF
Of all the wonderful products in Spain, the Iberian pig is the star. A small black, or sometimes reddish, creature, it roams free through meadows and oak forests of the south from the day it finishes suckling. During its life it feeds on acorns, wild herbs and grasses, which give the meat its distinctive aromatic flavour, putting on about a kilo a day until the day of the matanza (slaughter) when it will weigh between 90 and 110 kilos.
This natural diet means the meat is low in fat and high in oleic acid, boasting similar properties to those of olive oil—it really is a ‘good’ fat. The meat is rich in vitamins B1, B2 and B3, zinc and potassium. Because the matanza is at the start of the winter this is a great time of year to have it. If you only know it in the form of charcuterie, I urge you to head down to the Boqueria and buy some cuts for roasting or grilling. Though more expensive than the mass-produced, Northern European pork, you’ll never look back. NB: unlike traditional pork, Iberian pork can be served rare, or at least pink. TS
Roast Iberian Pork on Thyme
800g Iberian lomo (loin)
Large sprig dried thyme
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 180ºC. Season the pork generously with salt and pepper, lay on top of the thyme and roast for 30 minutes. Turn the oven down to 70ºC and slow roast for a further 30 minutes. This will give you a pink and juicy cut. Serve with the pan juices deglazed with a small glass of white wine, and escalivada (grilled vegetables).