Quince paste from Cannelle et Vanille
#ThatTranslatorCanCook Week 2
It’s been a while since my first post, but I’ve been busy with a 3-month culinary translation course. While one of my new year resolutions is loosing weight (how original...), I started 2020 making quince paste for the first time. Did you know the Spanish expression “dulce y queso sabe a beso” [sweet and cheese tastes like a kiss]?
There always is a tub of quince paste back at home in Spain, but I had no idea what the fruit looked like until recently. Not interested in the translation? Skip to the cooking.
I will discuss the translation of the descriptions and measures.
"Something between pineapple and chamomile"
This is how the cookbook author describes the fragrance of quince fruit, though I am sure that each person would use a different referent. For example, Daring Gourmet talks of wild English roses and Alex Kingston (BBC Food) of a fragrance unlike any other.
Tastes, textures and colours can be perceived differently across cultures. The explanation is simple: people construe them from their personal experience of local products, as with the English roses above. Examples:
- Taste. In the research for my MA dissertation on cookbooks I found the taste of buckwheat described as nutty in Spanish cookbooks; earthy in American ones. Maybe not exclusive, but different!
- Colour. The blog Directo al Paladar describes the colour of cooked quince paste as butano, the bright orange fruit colour of Spanish gas bottles. Meanwhile, in English texts, I’ve seen it described as rosy, deep ruby and deep orange. I personally think it is more brown or golden than orange. Go figure!
- Texture. Nigel Slater uses the referent of Turkish delight to describe the texture of quince paste. Turkish delight is a lot easier to find in the UK than in Spain.
What this shows is that culinary translators need to be specialists in culinary culture.
Measures and reading recipes
A medium lemon
The author lists a medium lemon in the ingredients, but how big is a medium lemon? If you say a lemon, we’ll want to know how big and, if you say medium, we’ll still wonder how big. Should you be weighing the juice? Well, perhaps. It depends on how important the measure is to the success of the recipe.
We like to blame our cooking failures on measures and instructions, sometimes with reason, sometimes it's just easier than blaming our inexperience, but authors cannot predict every single gap of knowledge of every single person. They can try, but the book might end up being too long or too patronising for some, and printing a cookbook is... very expensive.
Four large quinces
If you’ve never seen a quince in your life, how do you judge? Reading the whole recipe before shopping and cooking is good practice, then we know that the amount of sugar and stewed quince must be equal and the quinces are only weighed once stewed. As it was the end of the season, two of my quinces were spoiled, so I used half the amount and it still turned out perfect. Just read the instructions! But people lead busy lives; so, maybe, giving the weight would be better.
The only drag was having to stir regularly. It was then handy to be making risotto at the same time. There's a tip for you!
What I was terrified of, however, was that it would not set, but I needn’t have been. The instructions ask to stew the quince for twenty minutes before pureeing it, then cook the purée and sugar mixture “until it is very thick and has turned a deep golden-orange colour, about one hour”. Mine cooked for two hours. This is partly because of being overcautious and partly because I got rid of our freezer, and the test consists of placing a teaspoon of paste in the freezer for a minute to see how it sets.
I judged by eye until it started sticking mildly to the sides of the pan. As Nigel Slater says, “You cannot hurry a cooking quince. They are ready when they feel like it.” I later found a different trick in Directo al Paladar: stick a wooden spoon in the centre of the cooking pot and, when it stands, it’s ready! So, your pick.
Pairings for quince paste
In Spain, we commonly pair quince paste (also known in the UK as quince cheese!) and cheese. Its heady sweetness goes brilliantly with mature manchego and, therefore, with mature cheddar. But my favourite pairing consists of a thin slice of membrillo laid on a very generous chunk of Spanish fresh cheese, also called Queso de Burgos. At Christmas, a neighbour of my mother’s gifted her a homemade one and, well, I ate most of it, with membrillo of course!
© Pili Rodríguez Deus | All rights reserved.
- Daniel, Ch., & Roudot, A.C. (2007). La terminologie de la texture des aliments. Meta, 52(2), 342-351. http://dx.doi.org/10.7202/016075ar
- Recipe from Goyoaga’s blog: http://www.cannellevanille.com/seasons/autumn/membrillo-finally/
- Recipes with quince for Spanish speakers: https://sevilla.abc.es/gurme/las-mejores-recetas/para-los-amantes-del-membrillo-prepara-estas-10-recetas-muy-dulces/
- Recipes with quince by Nigel Slater. I certainly will try the roasted quince next year:
- Find substitutes of fresh cheese:
- Make quince jelly: