The Medlar is a bit of an oddity as a fruit. It looks like a cross between a big brown rosehip and an apple, and has the rather uncharming nickname of ‘dog’s arse’ (as demonstrated by the picture above). Fortunately the flavour is very different from that of a ‘dog’s arse’; it’s a pleasant cross between spiced apple and dates. Once upon a time it was quite popular, but has fallen out of favour – probably due to a number of factors; 1) the fruit has to be left to blett/rot before it can be used, 2) the fruit is fiddly to prepare and doesn’t yield much flesh, 3) the flavour is very delicate and can easily lost, 4) probably not commercially viable, so it became ‘lost’, 5) and as a result of 1-4, there aren’t all that many trees growing (compared to other fruit).
My parents have a Medlar tree in their garden, and Mum tried making Medlar cheese once, but said it wasn’t terribly successful. I did a bit of research, looking for potential recipes to use up the reasonable quantity of fruit I had gathered. There aren’t a huge range of options; chutneys, jellies, a tart, and that was about it. It seemed rather sad that one of our older fruits seemed to be fading out of sight.
Preparing the fruit; wait until the fruit has gone a dark brown then pick (or pick then leave in a cool dark place until it has bletted). Peel off the skin, and pull the flesh from around the stones. You should be left with a paste which looks like this;
(The recipe is based on the quantities for The Smitten Kitchen’s Spiced Applesauce Cake)
Spiced Medlar and Toffee Cake
2 cups (8 3/4 ounces or 250 grams) plain flour
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) salt
a pinch of cinnamon
a pinch of ground ginger
a pinch of ground cloves
1 stick (4 ounces or 113 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (6 7/8 ounces or 195 grams) caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (about 13 ounces or 365 grams) unsweetened Medlar paste
Enough double cream to slacken the medlar paste
1/2 cup (about 1 3/4 ounces or 50 grams) toffee baking drops (e.g. Renshaw’s Simply Melt Tempting Toffee Flavour Buttons)
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter an 23cm loose-bottom round cake tin.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Seperately, blend the medlar paste with several tablespoons of cream – enough to make it quite slack. Beat butter, sugar, and vanilla until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the medlar paste. Mix in flour mixture until combined, then stir in the toffee drops.
Spread batter evenly in the cake tin and bake until golden-brown and a knife inserted into centre comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in the tin for 15 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to loosen, then remove from the tin. Cool completely on a rack.
Sadly, I don’t have a picture of the final product – it got rather lost in amongst the other cakes over Christmas, but I can say it was very tasty! It has quite a subtle, spicy flavour which goes very well with cream, and would be great warm.