Vaguely based on a Cretan pastry (and approved, much to my relief, by my Greek friend Vana), these sumptuous little pies showcase. The versatility and honeyed sweetness of quince. Historically, quince has made a perfect partner for cheese (think of membrillo), and here it nestles perfectly on a cloud-like bed of feta and ricotta. I love to eat these for breakfast or brunch, but they also make an excellent mid-afternoon snack.
You can adjust the recipe to suit your taste – use a higher ratio of feta to ricotta if you want a more savory pie, or use all ricotta to keep things sweet. Incidentally, if you happen to have any leftover quince, apple, and saffron compote (here), you can use this to top the tarts instead of making the honeyed quince from scratch.
For the quince
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons runny honey
2 quince, peeled, cored, and cut into 2cm dice
1 tablespoon quince jelly
For the pastry
125ml extra-virgin olive oil
100g golden caster sugar
130g half-fat crème fraîche
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500g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
finely grated zest of ½ orange
For the filling
1 egg, lightly beaten
200g feta, crumbled
50g icing sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom or cinnamon
50g flaked almonds or roughly chopped blanched hazelnuts
2–3 tablespoons runny honey, for drizzling
First, prepare the quince. Put the lemon juice, honey, and 250ml of water in a medium saucepan over high heat, and bring to the boil. Add the quince pieces, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cover the pan with a lid and cook for 40 minutes, until the quince is just tender to the point of a knife. If the pan starts to dry out, add a little more water to keep the quince moist.
Meanwhile, start the pastry. In an electric mixer or with an electric hand whisk, beat the olive oil with the caster sugar for a couple of minutes on high speed, until slightly increased in volume. Whisk in the crème fraîche and egg, then sift in the flour and baking powder. Add the orange zest, then use the mixer or your hands to bring everything together into a soft, but not sticky dough. Knead for a couple of minutes, then set aside in a bowl under a clean tea towel for 30 minutes to rest.
Remove the lid from the quince pan and add the quince jelly to the quince pieces. Simmer gently, uncovered, for another 10 minutes. The quince should have turned golden red and become glazed in the jelly, and very soft to the pressure of a spoon. There should be only a little liquid left, and it should look sticky and jammy. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside.
Add One teaspoon of the beaten egg this important
Make the filling. Reserve 1 teaspoon of the beaten egg. Use a whisk or wooden spoon to beat together the remaining egg with the ricotta, feta, icing sugar, and cardamom or cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 210°C/190°C fan/gas mark 6–7. Grease two muffin tins with olive oil.
When the dough has rested for 30 minutes, roll it out on a floured work surface to a circle roughly 3mm thick. Using an upside-down bowl (or a pastry cutter) of about 8–10cm in diameter, cut 14–16 circles out of the dough (the amount will depend on the size of your circles). Re-rolling the trimmings as necessary until you have used it all up. Place one dough circle in each hole of the muffin tins and press down gently to shape it into a small cup.
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Divide the cheese mixture between the dough cups, placing about 1 heaped tablespoon in each. Gently crimp the edges of the dough with your finger and thumb, gathering it together around the cheese filling at the sides. You don’t want to cover the cheese, simply gather the dough around it so the filling sits neatly in the middle.
Divide the honeyed quince between the pastries, placing a heaped teaspoon or so on top of the cheese filling in each, until it is all used up.
Brush the pastry around the cheese mixture with the reserved teaspoon of beaten egg.
Bake the pastries for about 20–25 minutes, until the cheese filling has set and the pastry is golden. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. As the pastries are cooling, put the 50g flaked almonds or hazelnuts on a small baking tray and toast in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.