Monthly Archives: October 2013

Making Membrillo

I only have a few photos of the membrillo that I made. One of the quince at the beginning, a big splatty pot and then a slab of membrillo at the end. As usual i got carried away with the cooking and forgot to take photos along the way.


We have a quince tree in our garden and this year we had our third harvest of about fifteen knobbly pears. Quince look like rotund freestyle pears and are very hard. They are not for eating raw and are difficult to peel but it’s well worth the effort in order to make delicious membrillo



Membrillo is a set quince jelly that is eaten in Spain with cheese. The first time that I ate membrillo we were guests in a friends’ mother s house in the north of Spain. It was a small village near the Portuguese border and the mother welcomed us into her little house and made us a feast. The dessert was fresh white cheese and membrillo. The cheese didn’t look very appealing to me but it would have been rude to refuse. It was delicious,. Somehow the musky sweetness of the membrillo opened up the delights of this otherwise quite bland cheese.  I’ve been a fan ever since although these days I usually enjoy membrillo with Manchego, which is a hard Spanish sheep cheese.


It’s very easy to make membrillo but as I only make it once a year I can never remember quite how I made it the year before.  Here’s this years version

Peel and chop the quince  – however many you have.

Put the chopped quince into a saucepan and just cover with water.

Split a vanilla pod and scrape the seeds onto the fruit and then chuck the pod in too.

Cook for about forty minutes, or until the quince are tender.

Strain, remove the vanilla pod and weight the fruit,

Blend the fruit to a puree in a processor

Put the puree into a clean saucepan with the equal weight of sugar .

Gently bring to the boil, then turn to simmer for about forty minutes.

Stir every few minutes and beware of moulten plops of membrillo.

Pour the jelly onto a tray lined with parchment paper and leave to set

My kitchen was totally trashed when I had finished, there were blobs of membrillo far and wide but it was well worth a little scrub.


Arroz Negre aka Black Rice

Last night we ate a Catalan speciality – Arroz Negre, meaning black rice. This spectacular dish, a relation of paella, is made using squid ink and although I have made this before, last nights version was the first time that i had made it with fresh ink.


We bought some beautiful little calamari in the market and also asked for some ‘tinta’ which is the ink. Instead of handing over little sanitised sachets of the ink the fish monger rummaged around under the counter and came up with a little sac of fresh ink from a sepia, a close relative of calamari.  A sepia is a cuttle fish in English but somehow sepia sounds more attractive. It didn’t look like a lot of ink and i was a little worried that there might not be enough but believe you me there was plenty. By the time I had finished there was  ink everywhere. Running down the walls, dripping off the sink and the cooker and all over me. I couldn’t believe that I had made such an incredible mess. I have no photos to prove it as touching my camera was out of the question.

In a culinary way the ink gives a delicious rich ‘seafood’ flavour and it’s a very funky colour. Black. Incredibly black. It is powerful stuff. The squid uses it for protection, spraying it a bit like a smoke screen to overcome it’s foe or indeed sometimes stepped up into chemical warfare mode where compounds are released that stun or desensitise the agressors.


We ate this with alioli and a few prawns on top but to be quite honest I would skip the prawns in future if they weren’t super doopa fatties as frozen prawns just don’t hit the spot. When we had finished eating our lips were black and we looked like a bunch of Goths.


It’s delicious and very simple to make so if you fancy a ‘Goth’ dinner search out some squid and ink and try this out.

Arroz Negre

1 onion, peeled and chopped

olive oil

3 cloves garlic. peeled and chopped

1 very big ripe tomato, grated

about 700g squid – preferably not too big

300g bomba or calaspara rice

1 glass white wine

1 sac of squid/sepia ink or 2 small sachets squid ink

900mls seafood/fish/whatever stock

Clean the squid and cut into rings. Heat a large frying pan and pour in enough oil to spread over the bottom. Add the squid and fry quickly until translucent and just cooked. Tip into a bowl and leave aside.


Put the pan back on the heat, add a little more olive oil and the onion. Cook on a medium high heat until the onion melts down then stir in the garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes then add the grated tomato. Let this all bubble up then stir in the rice and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in the wine and when that boils  add the stock and the ink. Season with a little salt but take it easy as the stock will reduce during the cooking.

When everything is bubbling away turn the heat down to medium/medium high. There should still be plenty of action but not enough to burn. After fifteen minutes strew the cooled calamari back on top and push down a little with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook for three more minutes then turn the heat off and leave it to relax for five minutes before serving with a little aioli to spoon over