Little ruby-red jewels
The pomegranate has made a comeback. Neos Kosmos shows you how to get the most out of every tiny seed
There is something about pomegranates that sparks a childlike fascination. As you gently try and flick out the seeds, concentrating hard not to bruise or pierce the fruit, you are transported back to younger years- when picking out pomegranate seeds with your tiny fingers seemed so much easier. And the reward for a perfectly picked out seed is exquisite. The taste of a pomegranate is an explosion of sweet, tangy and refreshing flavours. It's not surprising that this tiny seed, that packs so much punch, is appearing in recipes and dishes everywhere, especially in Greek cookery.
Pomegranates are a mainstay of Middle Eastern cooking, used in pilafs, as stuffing for meat or a jus on the side. But the fruit is deeply embedded in Greek culture - not only food but traditions. Historically, pomegranates were known as the "fruit of the dead" in Ancient Greek mythology and still, to this day, the connection to this myth is used in Greek traditions.
Pomegranates are used when making kolliva, which is an offering to commemorate the dead made out of boiled wheat, mixed with sugar and decorated with pomegranates. Pomegranates are often used as a sign of good luck and prosperity in Greek tradition. Silver pomegranates are given to people in the new year as a promise of good fortune. And on New Years Day, some regions of Greece celebrate new beginnings by smashing a pomegranate to denote prosperity and good will for the household and the family inside.
Nowadays, it's almost a given that you will find pomegranates used in modern Greek restaurant cooking as chefs become bolder with experimental styles. As one of the oldest fruits known to man, the pomegranate is made up of a hard outer shell, that needs to be cut. Inside are hundreds of tiny blood-red seeds filled with juice and flesh. This is the edible part of the pomegranate. The thick skin that encase the tiny seeds can't be eaten but the thin membrane surrounding the seeds can but is very bitter.
When picking a pomegranate, look for round, plump fruit that is rather heavy for its size. Because they cease to ripen after picking, you need to make sure that you've picked a fruit that will be ripe inside.
The sourness and tang of the fruit juxtaposed against the sweetness can be hard for a novice cook to use but rest assured, these little gems add visual and tasty flair. Their unique flavour can be used as a substitute for lemon, and their taste can lend itself to sweet and savoury treats.
One of the easiest ways to use the fruit is in salad. They can take a salad to a new level with each bite of the tiny fruity jewels. They go hand-in-hand with a salad made of a seed such as a burghal, quinoa or couscous. Partnered with mint or parsley too and you have a winning combo.
Turkey is one protein that works well with the seeds, that's why so many of us associate the fruit with Christmas. It can be used to stuff the bird or even as a gravy or jus. And leftover Turkey with some pomegranates added make a great next day salad. Throw pomegranates over a trifle and you have yourself a perfect Christmas quick dessert.
Desserts are the food where pomegranates shine the most. Whip up a pomegranate ricotta cheesecake and you will guarantee to make any Donna Hay wannabe jealous. They are great in fruit salads and make the perfect coulis too. Make a pomegranate granita, with a splash of vodka, and have yourself an adults-only after-dinner treat.
Given that pomegranate has the reputation of a healthy wonder fruit, pomegranate juice is being drunk by the litres. Or, boil it down with some cranberry juice to make a gorgeous sauce for your lamb.
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