Membrillo in Malaga
We headed to Malaga to catch up with our membrillo maker, Joaquin Cano, of El Corazon, who we had not seen for fourteen years!
He thought we should have the classic Malagan-style churros for breakfast - so took us to a crowded cafe which specialises in them. There are a few styles of churro as it turns out - the short fluted northern Spanish one, and then a huge round coil called the Madrileno. The Malagan one was smaller than that and came piled high on a plate, freshly fried in olive oil. No chocolate sauce down here - just eat them with your coffee.
Membrillo is quince paste and is often used to accompany cheese. Certainly it is perfect with both the sheep's milk Manchego and goat/sheep/cow blue blend, Valdeon, as well as many others that we import.
Over the years in New Zealand, chefs have also used it melted with Valrhona Manjari chocolate as a filling for tartlets, in savoury sauces to go with meat (nice with venison) as well as in ice-cream and other desserts or cut into cubes and rolled in crushed sugar as a jube.
Joaquin's company is not big - just four people - and his recipe comes from his grandfather. It is very simple. A specific variety of quince - and sugar - boiled for hours. The quince season is October, so that month is spent boiling fresh quinces down to a pulp. A friend of Joaquin's grows exactly the right variety for him, and he has just planted 300 trees of his own.
His factory is small and the process simple, so after a quick tour we headed to lunch at a local seafood restaurant where we enjoyed more wonderful fried fish and giant prawns. It is easy to eat great seafood in Spain and Joaquin proudly informed us that the delicious sweetness of these delights was due to the warm waters around Malaga. Lovely guy, lovely product - and hospitality.