Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Realm of Fig and Quince

I love high summer but think this is my favourite time of year for fruit. Apples and pears are less glamourous than berries but disappoint less too. Plums when they're ripe are a treat and seem to have been particularly good this year and then there's figs and quince, the subjects of this quirky and endearing book by Dutch author Ria Loohuizen.

I'm not going to even pretend that this is a 'must have' book - although who strictly needs cookery books these days with all the recipes on the internet - but it's the kind of book that restores your faith in publishing. It contains recipes and information you'd never find elsewhere*, it's celebrity-free, it is modestly priced (£9.99) and it would make a perfect gift for a friend with a fig tree or to accompany a bagful of quince you'd managed to pick up at the farmers' market.

I judge a book by how many recipes I want to cook and there are plenty of them here - oddly, mostly the sweet ones. (I don't have a terribly sweet tooth). They're divided up by country or region: I love the sound of Figs in Madeira with Rice Pudding, Figs in Wine with a Mascarpone Foam made with grappa and Fig Sauce with Balsamic Vinegar which sounds to me like the perfect accompaniment for duck. Quince dishes that appeal include Guineafowl with Quinces, a French recipe cooked with honey, cider and cream, Quince Aioli and an Algerian recipe for Chicken with Quince and Cardamom.

Some of the nicest suggestions are the simplest ones: "Fresh figs should be eaten as simply as possible" says Loohuizen. "At most sprinkle pomegranate seeds over them for a contrast in texture, marinate them for an hour in orange juice, orange flower water or Grand Marnier and dust them in ground cardamom". To a cardamom addict that sounds perfect heaven.

I'm less grabbed by the sound of the fish and fig recipes but to be fair I haven't given them a try and I'm surprised there's not more on the heavenly combinations of these two fruits and cheese.

If you're heading for the Abergavenny Food Festival the weekend after next you'll be able to buy it direct from the publisher Tom Jaine of Prospect Books who publishes many comparably off-the-wall titles. (Recipes from Corsica by Rolli Lucarotti is another I've been dipping into). He usually does a deal for festivalgoers which will no doubt tempt you to splurge more than you intend.

* the essay on sugar is fascinating

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