Quince, ayva as in Turkish, is a seasonal fruit, best enjoyed from October to early January and it is plentiful in Turkey. It is a rare treat to get in England, so you can imagine my excitement seeing them at the Turkish Market in Cheam, in Southeast England. I got my quinces and my heart was set to make the much loved, delicious Turkish quince dessert, Ayva Tatlisi.
Quince comes from the same family as apples and pears, and has a deliciously fragrant, rosy smell. There are also many health benefits of quince; it is packed with fiber, potassium and antioxidants. Quince is delicious when it’s ripe and you can enjoy eating raw, though it can also be quite tough to tackle. The hard, tangy and pale quince becomes soft, fragrant in a beautiful dark rosy pink color when it is cooked; quite a transformation for this humble fruit. Quince dessert, Ayva Tatlisi, is very popular in Turkey enjoyed in winter time, and it is divine, when cooked properly. You may notice some of the quince desserts come up in very deep, almost artificial red color, and I am afraid that case some artificial coloring may have been added to achieve this, to save up on the cooking time.
One of the elements that give this quince dessert its gorgeous color and fragrant taste is the slow, gentle cooking. I cooked mine for about 1 hour and 45 minutes over low heat and the transformation in the color and texture was amazing. Make sure to keep the seeds in the pan when you’re cooking the quinces; they help bringing out that gorgeous deep rosy pink/amber color. I also keep the peeled skin of quince in the pan; they all together bring a fragrant smell, beautiful color and thicken the syrup as the seeds contain pectin, a natural thickener. The cooked peels are lovely, chopped into strained yoghurt with nuts, for breakfast, as well as over toasted bread – another good example of no waste Turkish cuisine.
I hope you enjoy this easy and delicious quince dessert, Ayva Tatlisi; it simply melts in the mouth. You can prepare ahead of time and it keeps well in the fridge for 2-3 days. I love the fruity desserts in Turkish cuisine; they are fragrant and packed with flavor, examples included in my cookery book (such as the Pumpkin dessert, Baked apricots with walnuts etc), Ozlem’s Turkish Table, Recipes from My Homeland. Signed copies are available to order at this link, and now 20 % Off – delivered worldwide, including USA. We also have this new Ozlem’s Turkish Table apron, with an embroidery of my home town Antakya’s daphne leaves in the design; it can make a lovely gift to a foodie, you can order at this link. (please kindly note that Quince Dessert is not included in this book).
Preparation time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 1 hour 45 minutes (or a little more, depending on the size of the quince)
2 medium size quinces
370ml/13fl oz water
30ml/2 tbsp. juice of lemon
15g/ 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
Turkish thick cream, Kaymak, or clotted cream to serve
Crushed pistachio nuts or walnuts to serve
Wash and cut the quinces in half, from top to bottom. Scoop out the core and keep the seeds, save the seeds aside. Peel the skin of the quince halves and set them aside too. Rub the peeled quince halves with the lemon juice; that will help quince not to go dark in color.
Spread the peels of quince as a layer in a heavy pan, wide enough to have 4 quince halves in one layer. Place the quince halves on top, in a way that the hollow side faces upwards. Spread the sugar evenly over the halves and stir in the reserved quince seeds, cloves and the water.
Bring the pan to a boil then reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Simmer gently for about 45 minutes. Check the quinces and flip the halves gently to the other side. The quinces will start turning to a rosy, darkish pink color and the syrup will start to thicken and caramelized. Stir in the ground cinnamon, cover and cook on low heat for l hour, pouring the juice over quince every 20 minutes or so (you may need a little more or less cooking time depending on the size of the quince), turn the heat off. You will now get a richer dark rosy pink color and some caramelisation.
Leave the cooked quinces cool in the pan. The syrup will thicken even more and the color will go darker, thanks to the seeds acting as a natural thickener. Once cool, place the quince halves on a serving plate, with a dollop of clotted cream or even better, Turkish kaymak, the thick cream of the water buffalos over the top. You can sprinkle some crushed pistachio or walnuts over and serve. You can use plant based cream to make this a vegan feast.
This delicious quince dessert keeps well in the fridge for a good 3 days.