Quince Paste with Vanilla, Star Anise & Cardamom

three large quinces, peeled, cored and chopped into 2cm (1”) pieces, reserving the seeds (they will make the paste a deeper pink)
¼ cup water
one whole vanilla bean (do not cut into it and scrape out the seeds as this will make the paste too vanilla-ey, you only want a hint of it)
four cardamom pods, slightly bruised
two star anise
raw sugar

1. Place the chopped quince into a heavy based saucepan over low heat with the water, vanilla bean, star anise and cardamom pods and cook for two hours stirring occasionally and checking often to make sure the fruit isn’t drying out and sticking to the base of the pan. If the fruit looks dry add small amounts of water to keep it slightly moist.

2. At the end of two hours take out the seeds, vanilla bean and spices. Push the cooked quinces through a sieve and weigh the total purée. Add ¾ of this weight in sugar. For example if your purée weighs 400 grams, add 300 grams of sugar. (You can add 1:1 sugar though I find it’s a bit too sweet this way and slightly less sugar does not prevent the paste from setting properly.)

3. Cook over low heat stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the purée has thickened. You will know it’s ready when it thickens and begins to come away from the bottom of the pan as you stir it.

4. Divide paste evenly into ramekins, cover in cling wrap and refrigerate when cool to set. The paste will set overnight.

Photography & styling notes:

The focus of the image had to be the beautiful colour of the quince paste so I chose very cold-coloured props to go with it. The stoneware bowl and plate are from local op-shops as is the little vintage wooden paté knife. The background is an old weathered piece of masonite I found in hard rubbish on my street. The only other props the paste needed were the spices which went into it. K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid) is very much my motto these days when it comes to photography and food styling. (Leave the fussy propping to the amateurs most professional stylists say.) The only light used in this image is window light.