This is one of those odd sounding, good tasting appetizers that also serves as a crowd pleaser at dinner parties. It’s very simple in terms of the ingredients it requires yet it is a bit time-consuming to prepare. It’s eye-catching colorful appearance also makes it a great treat for festive occasions. In Turkey we have a popular charcuterie product called “pastırma” which is a form of cured beef, covered in a coating of spicy red-colored paste and left to wind-dry. Slicing pastırma requires a skillful butcher since it has to be sliced manually. There is a lot to say about pastırma, but what you need to know for this recipe is that if you can find pastırma you’ll have to clean the paste surrounding it because the taste of that paste will overpower all other flavors. We’re lucky because we can buy pastırma that is sold without the paste. If you can’t find pastırma you can replace it with any other form of delicious cured meets. I do not recommend using bacon since it contains too much fat and becomes too crispy to wrap around anything when cooked. I think the best choice would be to use some delicious prosciutto. Or you can also opt for the French delicacy “viande séchée.” Enough said about that, now let’s have a quick look at quince! Quince in contemporary Turkey is mainly used to make Candied Quince Dessert. Making preserve is also another popular use for quince. But other than these uses, unfortunately it does not serve for much else in Turkish cuisine. Yet if you’re interested in Ottoman cuisine you will find that it was used in the making of several main dishes combined with meat, such as stuffed quince (“ayva dolması”) among others. All that being said, I should also mention that the original recipe for this appetizer, which I learned from a renowned gourmet and food writer Prof. Dr. Arman Kırım, was somewhat different than this version. Unfortunately Arman Kırım, who was actually a professor of business economics by profession but at the same time a passionate foodie and a very talented home chef, passed away at an early age in 2011. Every time I make my adapted vesion of his “Oven-baked Quince Wrapped in Cured Beef” recipe I remember him with gratitude and respect and I believe that he would have been quite proud had he known what a big inspiration he has been and continues to be for me.
- 2 medium sized quince (washed, peeled and cored, cut into 12 wedges each)
- Freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon (ca 1/8 cup)
- 2 tsp light brown sugar
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- 24 slices of “pastırma”, i.e. cured beef (can be replaced with prosciutto, or viande séchée)
For the sauce
- 3 tsp honey
- 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 2-3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
- Pinch salt and black pepper
- Parsley stems (to wrap around the slices)
Step by step method
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- Heat oven to 190 C. Place quince slices in an oven-proof baking dish large enough to place them without overlapping each other. Baste with lemon juice and sprinkle evenly with brown sugar.
Place in preheated oven and cook for approximately 30 minutes, flipping them over halfway through the baking time. Once the quince slices have become slightly tender to the touch of a fork take them out of the oven and set aside.
- In the meantime take a bunch of parsley stems, trying to pick out those that are relatively thinner and place them in a pot of boiling salted water. Keep them in simmering water for 2-3 minutes or until they become soft enough to handle, then take them out and place them immediately into a pot filled with ice-cold water. This will make them easier to wrap and help maintain their bright green color. You can leave the stems in the cold water until you are just about ready to use them. Drain on paper towel prior to use.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, pour about 1 tbsp olive oil (be careful not to burn the oil). Place quince slices, in 3 batches, and sautée on both sides until slightly caramelized. Place in a plate and set aside.
- Next, lower the heat and quickly toss the cured beef in the same skillet, adding just a little bit of olive oil. Make sure the meat remains tender enough to wrap around the quince. Once cooked take cured beef slices out of the skillet and place next to the quince or on another plate.
Now that you have all your components ready you can start putting it all together. Take a slice of cured beef and wrap it around a slice of sautéed quince then tie it with a parsley stem to keep intact. Place wrapped slices in a serving dish. If you don’t have the patience to fuss with parsley stems you can always use toothpicks to keep intact.
- To make sauce, place all ingredients into a small bowl and whisk. Or put everything in a jar with thight lid and shake well. Drizzle sauce over quince slices just before serving, or put sauce in a small bowl placed in the middle or next to the serving dish. This way everyone can decide whether to have it plain or drizzled with sauce. But I strongly recommend it with the sauce.