Arriving at the Botanic Gardens at the crack of dawn, Rachel and I start unloading the trailer. We’ve got a couple of hours to hang our ‘baby’; an enormous blue gum wreath, 1.5 metres in diameter, the wire base of which we sculptured from a salvaged old farm fence. The decorative eucalyptus looks absolutely divine and its scent triggers fond memories of our shop in Lyttelton where we held floral workshops pre-earthquake. Eucalyptus along with pine trees baking in the hot sun are probably my most favourite smells. I adore them.
Our giant wreath hung on branches of the magnificent purple beech tree near the Peacock fountain in the Gardens. Using the giant wreath as a backdrop, Rachel and I started designing our little ‘set’ ready for the demonstration we were giving, ‘How to make a seasonal wreath from your garden’.
I am a huge fan of grandiflora foliage in arrangements requiring scale, and actually prefer to focus on the brown suede-like underside of the leaves which are really quite beautiful. The rich brown looks amazing contrasted with deep pink flowers and other red / pink foliage. Smoke Tree Bush perhaps.
Having loved not only the sweet fragrance that a handful of golden yellow quinces provided, but also the visual feast of these plump, down-covered fruits, I finally succumbed to peeling them ready for cooking, before it was too late!
Quinces can be stored at room temperature for a couple of weeks prior to cooking. They cannot be eaten raw and are a real challenge to core but such a treat once cooked.
A real foodie friend of mine passed this recipe on. Sure you’ll love it and you can swap in other seasonal fruit in the place of quince during the year.
Shortcrust Pasty (these amounts will line a 24cm loose-bottomed flan tin)
180g unsalted butter 240g plain flour
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup cold water
30 slices of cooked quince (or pears, black doris plums)
1/2 cup sugar
125g melted unsalted butter
Remove the butter from the fridge about 30 minutes before use. Sift flour and salt onto the bench and grate the butter into this. When lightly combined, make a well in the flour and add the water. Combine and using the heel of your hand, gather together to form a shape. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Peel and core the quince. Put into a bowl of cold water with juice of 1/2 lemon to prevent browning. Put into a pan with just enough water to cover them. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat leaving to simmer for about 20 minutes until soft. Drain fruit very well indeed.
Line the flan tin with a little butter, then place the rolled out pastry into the sides. Put some baking paper in and then add baking beans. Bake blind for 30 minutes, remove from the oven and allow pastry to cool. Arrange the fruit beautifully in the dish in a circle around the edges. Then fill in the centre with remaining fruit.
Make the filling. Beat the eggs with sugar until light and creamy. Melt butter til its a deep golden colour. Add flour to the eggs and then the butter. Spoon over fruit and cook for 25 minutes or until golden brown and puffed up. This will subside as it cools. Don’t put in the fridge, but it will keep well for 3-4 days. If you can resist it that long!