Beautiful, Tasty Quince (Ayva)
Autumn time in Istanbul is a favourite of those who reside or regularly visit. If this is your first visit to the city at this time, you are in for a treat. Ok, the weather is a little cooler but still pleasant enough for some sightseeing alongside looking for real estate in Istanbul. The real treat any time of the year in Istanbul is the superb cuisine. Autumn though is hugely anticipated not only for the Hamsi but also the lesser known quince or ayva, as it is known in Turkish.
Quince is not as popular out of Turkey, but once you taste the delights of this fruit, you will certainly relish returning for more. Apple-like in shape, the raw fruit can be a little tough to eat, astringent in taste and like cotton wool in texture. If this has been your only experience with this fruit do not despair there are secrets to this delight which I will share you.
- VarietyThere are more than one variety of ayva. The lemon quince (limon ayvası) is the harder tougher fruit to eat, but you will see Turks crunching away on them. ‘Bread’ quince (ekmek ayvası) is a softer, more palatable fruit to eat raw.
- What you do with them. Of course, you can eat quince raw; when in season, it is often a favourite accompaniment when drinking Raki. Packed full of nutrients, antitoxins, potassium and fibre also extremely health giving and has had a medicinal use for centuries. The ultimate pleasure for most Turks is when it is slowly cooked in syrup to produce the ever popular, divine dessert known as ‘Ayva tatlısı’. Once experienced, never forgotten. A Rose-like aroma with a rich, subtle texture and taste. So, whatever your plans are, if you are in Istanbul from October to late January, you have to try this delectable treat. There will be a café or patisserie in every area so no excuse, take a break from looking at real estate in Istanbul and try some.
Candid Quince (Ayva)
The secret to a perfect dessert made from quince is in the length of cooking time. Shorten it, and you lose not only texture but the fabulous colour. Now some people think the seeds of the fruit is the way to enhance the colour. No, not so. Adding the seeds to the slowly simmering sugar syrup only affects the pectin content that thickens the syrup. The colour comes from the length of time, which should be a minimum of six hours. Now some cheats add colouring, but as soon as you cut into the quince (ayva), you will see the colour is not even throughout, plus texture not as soft. Now some cooks, do make candied ayva and if you are offered a piece of this delight do try it. It melts in your mouth and leaves an exquisite taste.
Quince Desserts (Ayva Tatlısı) in Istanbul
Now if you are lucky enough a neighbour or even your realtor might offer you some homemade ayva tatlısı, and if you are especially fortunate they may even top it off with some kaymak, Turkish clotted cream. Even at the risk of being repetitive, once tasted you will want more. In Istanbul, that is certainly not a problem. Head to Sakarya Tatlıcısı near the Balik Pazari, Beyoğlu district, opened for over fifty years you will find this delicious dessert with no added colouring! Take the time to sit, sip a coffee and treat yourself to this very special, delightful Turkish sweet.