JANE GRIGSON was a self-taught cook – as, doubtless, are most of her readers – she learnt how to prepare food from consulting books or from friends and from her family. Jane was principally interested in domestic food and home cooking and when describing how she cooks she is a comforting presence in one’s kitchen. She is always cheerful and you can almost hear her peals of laughter at the numerous idiocies of modern life.
Compared with recipes written by a chef, Jane is especially alert to the unexpected or puzzling elements sometimes encountered when cooking from a published recipe. “If the filling rises alarmingly, do not worry. It will fall when you take it out of the oven” is a reassuring footnote to a recipe for Old-fashioned Apricot Tart. And how endearing of an author to confess that she always offers up a silent prayer when baking a souffle. In the course of writing her seven principal works Jane researched and tested thousands of recipes. Here, we have chosen some of our favourites.
Quinces baked in the French style (Coings au four)
Chosen by Sally Holloway
From Jane Grigson's Fruit Book, originally published in 1982.
This recipe is a family favourite. I’m not sure I would have discovered it if we hadn’t had a glut of quinces on our tree a few years ago and were casting around for ‘ways to use up quinces’. It is completely delicious and simple but it is one of Jane’s less discursive recipes, buried amid a whole host of quince recipes (of how many cook books can you say that?). I’d love to have known more about Isaac Newton’s love for quinces – and, given the size of them, one can only speculate what might have happened had a quince fallen upon his head … (Note - baked quince was Sir Isaac Newton's favourite pudding)
Six to eight quinces
150g (5oz 2/3cup) caster sugar
100g (3.5oz scant 1/2 cup) lightly salted or unsalted butter
3 generous tablespoons (1/4 cup) whipping or double cream
Allow one for each person. Peel and hollow out the cores of six to eight quinces, being careful not to pierce through the bottom of the fruit. Sprinkle each one with lemon juice as you go. Stand the quinces in a buttered gratin dish.
Mix together to a cream the caster sugar, butter, and cream. Stuff the quinces with this mixture – if there is some left, add halfway through the cooking. Top each quince with a level tablespoon of sugar and bake at gas 5/190˚ (375˚ F) until the quinces are tender. Serve with cream and sugar.