There's also something rather texturally appealing about cooking apples with quinces - the quinces don't soften as much, remaining delectable, tender morsels, while the apples dissolve into a froth. The combination is delicious, and the perfect filling for this crumble tart. It's basically apple crumble, but in sliceable form, and improved with the delectable fragrance of quince. I added some flaked almonds to the crumble mixture, which give a lovely nutty crunch, and sprinkled some demerara sugar over the top for the same reason.
One of the reasons behind this dessert, apart from my passionate love for the quince, is that I was recently sent some lovely wines from South West France to sample (I know, it's a hard life being a food blogger). Home to around twenty indigenous grape varieties and the point of origin for grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec, the South West is a wonderful region for wine diversity (there are 16 PDO wine denominations). Even more excitingly, wines from this region have the highest procyanidin content of any in the world - the chemical that means wine can have positive effects on cardiovascular health.
I haven't noticed any immediate benefits yet, so I guess I'll just have to keep drinking it until I am fully conscious of my arteries expanding.
My first taste was of the PDO Gaillac, Domaine Rotier, 2008. This is a beautiful dessert wine. I don't know that much about wine, so I won't be a fraudulent bore and start waxing lyrical about bouquets and body and finish. Instead, I will tell you that this wine is like drinking liquid honey. It warms you from the inside, and is gorgeously sweet and aromatic. It has, according to the bottle, notes of apricot, fig and quince, which makes it the perfect partner for this dessert.
I made the dessert with the inkling that it would go well with the wine. In fact, it was an even better match than I could have hoped.
It's quite hard to pair wine with dessert, because very sweet or tart things tend to make the wine taste overly sour and acidic. The best way is to ensure there is a rich, buttery component to said dessert, to mellow out any assertive fruit flavours. This crumble, then, is the ideal way to go. It provides a rich, buttery base for the sweet, fragrant wine, which perfectly reflects the quince flavours in the fruit filling.
It's a way of putting a proper autumnal pudding on the table without the heaviness of crumble (not that I'd ever turn down crumble, but sometimes you want something a bit lighter and more refined). You can serve it in elegant slices. It looks far more effort than it actually is. It's exotic and will make people say 'Ooh, what's quince?' It's an amalgam of two very traditional British ingredients: quince and crumble. It breathes sweet and tasty life into a much misunderstood fruit.
Then you have the taste, which is just wonderful. Serve it with lots of vanilla ice cream, while it's still a little warm from the oven. There's rich buttery pastry, the crunch of toasted almonds, and the soft, unctuous collapsed autumnal fruit inside; sweet, yet tart, standing up robustly to its crumbly trappings.
Buttery crumble, a sweet fruit filling and a glass of ambrosial dessert wine - the absolute best way to end a meal.