Pomegranates

Pomegranates

By
Greg Malouf, Lucy Malouf
Contains
3 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781740667678
Photographer
William Meppem

One of nature’s most challenging fruits, for many people pomegranates fall into the ‘too hard basket’. However, all you really need is a good sharp knife, and maybe a little patience, to pierce the leathery skin and pry loose the delicious seeds lodged in the thick, creamy membrane. But it’s well worth the effort – gloomy winter days are immeasurably cheered by these glorious ruby-red seeds, bursting with sour–sweet juice.

In many cultures, pomegranates are considered a symbol of fertility and abundance – no doubt due to their prolific number of seeds. At Jewish New Year, traditionalists will set out a dish of pomegranates as an omen for fertility. In Greek legend the pomegranate is forever linked to the change of seasons – Persephone, daughter of Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, was condemned to spend half the year in the underworld because she ate six seeds of the fruit.

In the Middle East, where they are believed to originate, pomegranates are consumed avidly. The refreshingly tart–sweet juice is squeezed into both savoury and sweet dishes, and its jewel-like seeds add a divinely opulent touch when sprinkled like sparkling rubies over a humble dish of baba ghanoush, the odd salad or even rice dishes.

Despite their glossy beauty, few of the imported pomegranates available to us here warrant the effort in terms of flavour. They may certainly be used as an exotic addition to fancy flower arrangements and table decorations, but they are likely to be a big disappointment on the culinary front. If you also believe that life is too short to spend digging away at pomegranate seeds, you could consider pomegranate molasses. We are big fans of this lusciously dark and mysterious syrup. It is very concentrated, and shouldn’t be substituted directly for fresh pomegranate juice without being diluted, or it will overwhelm a dish with its heavy, sticky sweetness. But used with a light touch, pomegranate molasses adds that exotic sweet–sour tartness so favoured in many Persian and Arabic dishes.

Selecting and storing pomegranates

Choosing fresh pomegranates can be a bit of a hit-and-miss affair, and the rather insipid ones we get here in Australia are really only likely to be useful for their decorative little seeds – many of them seem to have no juice at all inside. The usual rules apply, though: select fruit which appear to be unblemished – in the case of pomegranates, this means a smooth, dusky, golden-red skin. If they feel heavy for their size, this is a good sign. They are more likely to be fresher and juicier. Pomegranates can be stored at room temperature for a couple of weeks before they dry out.

Using pomegranates

To remove the seeds from their creamy, pithy cocoon requires a little patience. Cut the fruit in half, and using a teaspoon or a very small skewer, dig out the top layer of seeds. A more brutal approach involves whacking the back of the fruit with a rolling pin a few times, which can dislodge more seeds. Do this over a bowl to avoid making a mess.

If you are lucky enough to get a juicy pomegranate, you can squeeze the fresh juice out using a normal lemon squeezer. Be warned though, it will take several pomegranates to obtain a decent amount of juice. Far better, we think, to buy a bottle of Middle Eastern pomegranate molasses, which will give you the desired ruby-red juice (when diluted with water) with no effort at all.

Recipes in this Chapter

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