When discussing winter fruits in Turkey, quince is one of the first that come to mind. Now, it’s quince’s time to shine in all the local markets. The fruit has a unique, perfumy taste unlike any other. It is also a great immune system booster, providing you with more than 20 percent of your daily Vitamin C needs.
While some eat the tart fruit raw, Turks love to mellow its astringent flesh turning it into jam or pickles. Ayva reçeli (quince jam) is particularly popular on Turkish breakfast tables.
Eat quince, but don’t tell anyone in Turkey that you ate it - unless you’re in trouble. The idiom ayvayı yemek (literally eating quince) translates as to being in a bad situation and used when things go pretty wrong in colloquial language. However, this does not stop Turkey from being the top producer of quince in the world, resulting in many recipes featuring this slightly off-beat fruit.
Here is a recipe for stuffed quince from classic Istanbul favorite, Nar Lokantası.
Ayva dolması (Stuffed and baked quince) Yield: 4 servings
2 tbsp. butter
2 onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp. pine nuts
¼ cup slivered almonds
200 gr. ground beef
100 gr. ground lamb
¼ cup dried apricots, finely chopped
2 tbsp. currants, soaked
1 cup rice, soaked in lukewarm water for 1 hour
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp. dill, finely chopped
1 tbsp. fresh mint, finely chopped
4 whole quince, top part cut, inside completely carved
1 tbsp. butter, melted
2 cups water, boiled
2 tbsp. tomato paste
- In a large pot, melt the 2 tbsp. butter and sauté the onions, pine nuts and almonds.
- When the onions and nuts turn golden brown, add the ground meats, dried apricots, currants, rice, black pepper, and salt. Continue sautéing until the meat is cooked. Take the pan off the heat and add the parsley, dill, and fresh mint. Mix well.
- Divide the meat mixture into 4 equal portions and stuff the quince. Place the stuffed quince in a oven tray or a heat-proof glass container with high edges.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the hot water with butter and tomato paste. Pour this over the quince and cook in the oven pre-heated to 160 C (320 F) covered with foil, for about 30 minutes until the quince is softened.
- Remove the foil 5-10 minutes before taking the quince from the oven, to let the quince brown a little on the outside. Serve immediately.
To make ayva turşusu (quince pickle) or any other pickle, you can use this basic recipe:
1kg fruit or vegetables
1-2 sticks of celery
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon salt
6-8 coriander seeds
8-10 pepper seeds
⅓ cup white or apple vinegar (5%)
1 liter of water
Place the fruit or vegetables you want to pickle into a jar with the celery. Add salt, coriander, pepper, and vinegar. Add water until the jar is full and all items are fully covered. Twist the jar tightly closed. You can put it upside down if you want the vinegar to mix better with the water. Leave it for 2 weeks until the fruit/veggies are crunchy.
Don't forget to try Kiss the Frog's kadayıf with quince!