Never one to shirk a challenge, I took up surfing aged forty-nine. It all started on a romantic week away to Byron Bay for my partners birthday. We tried hang-gliding but found it a bit boring as we could only be passive passengers. Then we went for a surf lesson and were hooked. We stumbled across this guy called Rusty Miller who taught surfing at The Pass. Rusty is in his seventies and originally from California. He was a world champion surfer and is a great teacher as well as a politically astute and fascinating man. He runs a surf school with his daughter Taylor who is also a great surf teacher. That trip was the start of an annual winter pilgrimage to the iconic Byron Bay to learn to surf on the long, slow, reliable warm water waves.
Easter weekend is exactly three years since those first surf lessons with Rusty and we took our boards and headed down to Anglesea on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria with some surfing buddies. Easter brings with it a big moon and king tides which drive large rolling waves. My Liquid Shredder surfboard, fondly referred to by a friends husband as the ‘floating footpath’, is an advanced technology soft hybrid long-board made in Peru. It’s easy to ride and can handle any surf that I can. On those big waves rolling in, I hang on for dear life as the board is caught and rushes forward with the wave, then I get to my feet as it gathers momentum. It’s such a thrill and a great way to play. Who says you can’t teach old dogs new tricks I say.
Speaking of old, the quince tree in my garden was full of ripe fruit at Easter. Quinces were highly prized by ancient civilizations though I only discovered them fairly recently after I planted a tree in my garden. The tree itself grows like a image in a Dr Seuss book. It produces the most beautiful delicate white-pink flowers in spring followed by giant yellow woolly fruits that have a surface as irregular as a boxers nose. I always preserve some of them, but we were having friends from Torquay over for brunch over Easter so I took a bag of quinces with me. There is nothing quite like the aroma that slow poached quinces infuse throughout the house. They develop a great pink-red color as they cook and are delicious served with Greek yogurt for breakfast.
- Six large quinces
- 1 cup rice malt syrup and six cups of water or equivalent volume of sugar syrup (two parts water to one part sugar)
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 1-2 vanilla beans, split and seeds scraped
- 12 cardamom pods, bruised
- 24 black peppercorns
Place all the ingredients except the quinces in a heavy baking dish. Bring slowly to the boil over a medium-low heat, stirring to dissolve the syrup. Peel the quinces (keep the peel) and cut each into 6-8 wedges, leaving the core intact. Add the quince to the syrup in the pan. Tie the peel in a piece of muslin and add to the pan, pop the lot in the over on 150 C for three hours until the quinces are soft and a rich red color. Serve the quinces with Greek yogurt and a drizzle of the poaching syrup. Sprinkle with pistachios and cardamon.
What’s your favorite quince recipe?
Image: Quinces from my garden