As promised, here’s the savory twist on last week’s “quince bread”! I’ve actually been waiting to share this one with you guys for almost a year~! You see, while we were on Madeira last year, we came, more or less by accident, by a Hotel Restaurant we just couldn’t pass on for once. As you guys might know, usually Hotel Restaurants are a last resort for Hubby and me while we’re traipsing across the island, but at that point we’ve actually been driving around that silly hotel in circles, looking for the Wine Harvest Festivities that, according to several sources, were about to go down somewhere in its general vicinity.
At some point our tummies’ protests were drowning out the motor of our little car lamenting the prospect of having to power up that same damned hill yet again, so we gave up on the search, gave the car a rest, locked our preconceptions about Hotel food in the trunk and sat down – to a fantastic, refined, yet authentic Madeiran meal with one of the most stunning views we’ve ever had to go along with it. Remember the Madeiran Passionfruit Mousse Post? The picture at the bottom, that was the lunchtime-movie playing out in front of us whenever we lifted our heads. We both had a Goat’s Cheese-Filo Parcel as a starter and the region’s signature Tomato & Onion Soup and freshly baked bread as a main – but the starter was what inspired me to come up with today’s dish. The parcels we were served, while somewhat similar in appearance, contained, unlike mine, no fruit whatsoever – but they had something seriously fruity about them. I think I mentioned that a) I do not fancy onions all that much and that b) Madeiran onions, juicy, sweet and… different! are a horse of a completely different color somewhere down the line. Well, I blame those onions being simmered away in Madeira wine for hours on end. The texture as well as the taste of the resulting onion jam had something pear’y about them, enough actually, to make my neurons jump from pears to apples to… quinces! And there it was, my idea to take the general idea of the dish in front of me, tweak it, adjust it to our plain old non-madeira-onions back home and add the quinces my overenthusiastic palate added without being asked to. When we got home, quince season was in full swing and, while I was going through my annual quince bash, I kept that idea simmering in the back of my head. When I arrived at the Jam/Jelly/Chocolates stage I covered last week, the final solution to my filo parcel filling meditation presented itself to me: the quince bread! And off I went, coming out of the invent-experiment-adjust-test proceedings with this final version~! Here’s what you need for 4 parcels/starter-sized servings.
Madeira Wine & Red Onion Jam
700g Red Onions, skinned, halved and sliced into 3mm thick half-moons
100g Dark Muscovado
100ml Red Wine Vinegar
100ml Madeira Wine
1 Tbsp High-Quality Grape or Pomegranate Syrup
1 Tbsp Aged Balsamic Vinegar
Sea Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to taste
1) Set a wide, heavy-based pot or pan onto medium-high heat.
2) Break up about 2-3 tbsp of the muscovado into fine grains and sprikle them across the bottom of your pot. Allow the grains to melt, then add the onions, close the lid for 3 mins to get the caramellization started.
3) Sprinkle in the remaining sugar, along with a generous pinch of salt and pepper, give the lot a good stir until the onions are evenly glossed over, then pop the lid back on and give them another 3 mins.
4) Deglaze the fragrant contents of your pot with the wine and vinegar. Don’t forget to swirl up whatever might be sticking to the bottom of the pot while you’re at it~
5) Turn the heat down to medium and allow the mixture to simmer away for 20-30 mins until onions are soft and liquids reduced down to about 1/3 of their former volume.
6) Gently stir in the syrup at that point and leave the onions to absorb it for 3 more mins.
7) Have a very careful taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
8) At this point the jam should be exactly that, thick and oozy. If you feel the mixture in front of you is about to run for its life, turn the heat to medium-low or low and keep reducing it down until it behaves as it should.
9) Once you’re satisfied, transfer the jam into a sterilized container and allow it to cool off completely. You’ll need at least 4 tbsp of the jam for the parcels, so feel free to seal up the rest in a separate preserving jar of sorts.
10) Any leftovers will go deliciously well with cheese (sandwiches even), smoked hams or could, diluted with a bit of olive oil and a mild wine vinegar, provide you with a delicious instant dressing for any kind of salad.
The Goat’s Cheese, Quince and Onion Jam Parcels
4 Disks/Slices of Mild Goat’s Cheese – A Goat’s Milk Camembert Log or Semi-Firm Cream Cheese Round both work deliciously well
4 2cm thick disks or squares of Quince Bread (clicky here for the recipe) – I always go with the same brand of Goat’s Cheese Rounds or a Goat’s Milk Camembert Log of the same size for this one, so I slice the quince bread with a cookie cutter matching the DIA of the cheese rounds. Just match size and shape of your pick of cheese and quince bread to keep the filling towers stable in the end
4 Tbsp of The Red Onion Jam
4-16 large Sheets of Filo Pastry – you’ll need 4 if you’re using the same size of Cheese Rounds I use. If you go about the process with my patience as well, you’ll also rip at least 2 sheets into ribbons. If you’re going with larger stacks of cheese and quince, you’ll probably want to use 4 whole sheets per parcel… an average pack of the pastry has about 16-20 sheets over here, so get one of those and see what works for you. If you really have no use for the leftover pastry in the end, here’s an idea: stack them up, hint of melted butter in between, sugar, cinnamon, cranberries, roll, butter, bake until golden. Ta~dah!
4 Tbsp Melted Butter
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
Fleur de Sel Flakes
1) First off, have a look at the contents of your onion chutney jar. If the onions have put some effort into squeezing out more of their juices while tucked away in the jar, drain the excess off into a small bowl – that’ll make a delicious addition to your dressing later on.
2) Preheat your oven to 200°C.
3) Neatly stack up the filo pastry sheets on a large cutting board and use a very sharp knife to slice the stack into 4 equally sized quarters. In case you want to go with bigger parcels or in case you need some practice to feel safe around the delicate pastry, trim or cut the sheets as you see fit, just make sure you have 4 layers of pastry cut into a square per parcel in the end. Oh and make sure you size your quince bread and goat’s cheese accordingly to keep the stacks of filling stable.
4) Pick up the first pile and, holding them together in their center, slide each sheet in a clockwise turn until you’re looking at a sort-of star-shaped stack of pastry.
5) Carefully lift each sheet and add a dab of olive oil into the center of of each, spreading outwards, to “glue” them into place.
6) Stack the quince bread, cheese and onion jam on top of eachother, right smack in the center of the pastry stars.
7) Add a crack of pepper and a sprinkling of Fleur de Sel on top.
8) Brush a bit of the melted butter around the base, then gather up the outsides and gently fold them around the cheese & quince stacks. Try to smooth the pastry as closely around the filling as you can, without actually squishing the insides.
9) Carefully yet firmly pinch the pastry closed over the tops of the piles – without squeezing out the onions in the process. Give the tops a little, careful twist to close the whole deal with a pretty flourish.
10) Brush the parcels with the remaining melted butter and sprinkle them with another pinch of Fleur de Sel flakes.
11) Transfer the parcels onto a lined baking tray and bake them for about 5-10 mins until a pretty golden sheen tells you it’s time to eat.
Assembling the Dish
100g Lambs Lettuce
A Couple of Walnut Halves
Leftover onion juices or a hint of olive oil and aged Balsamic Vinegar
Opt: Cipolle Borettane in Balsamic Vinegar
1) Divide the leaves onto 4 plates and scatter the walnuts of top.
2) Nestle the parcels into the beds and, just before serving, drizzle them with the onion juices or mini-dressing.
3) When I made these for their photoshoot, I bought a jar of preserved Cipolle Borretane at an italian delicacy store in town as a sort of backup for the onion jam – with limited access to an oven, I always have failsafes and plan b’s up the wazoo, juuuuust in case… Since everything went according to plan though, I had no other use for them, so I popped them on a salad along with the cheese and onion jam leftovers the next day… and boy did that work! If you have some of those flying around, I highly recommend using them as a salad topping with goat’s cheese.
Oh, just in case you were wondering… The Wine Harvest Festival that brought us to that Hotel – the Quinta do Furão Hotel & Restaurante in Santana, Madeira, by the way – in the first place? Literally as soon as we were done with our delicious lunch, leaning back with a cup of coffee in our hands, we finally focused on the weird noises and definitely-not-the-restaurant-kitchen-scents wafting around the far corner of the patio we were sitting on. Music? Open fire BBQ? What the… And, sure enough, a careful glance around the corner and into the hotel’s gardens revealed… The Harvest Festival in full swing. Well. Actually, what could have been a serious #facepalm moment if we hadn’t just had a fantastic lunch with THE view on that patio, was met with mild amusement, a shrug and two people continuing their drive along the northern coast of Madeira with smiles on their faces.