No fruit is more imbued with mysticism and a sense of the exotic than pomegranates, a vital source of food and medicine for different cultures and civilisations since ancient times.
From links to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, to modern research suggesting they may help prevent a range of serious health conditions, pomegranates have been prized throughout human history.
Their beauty, surely, has also contributed to their popularity. Cut the hard, red orbs in half and you reveal a mass of juicy crimson seeds, so frequently referred to as jewels that the term has almost become a cliché. But it’s true, these seedsarelike shiny rubies, treasures that add juicy bursts of colour and tart flavour to an array of sweet and savoury foods, as well as drinks.
The sourness of pomegranates is a particularly flavourful kind that brings real contrast, brightness and zing to whatever you add them to, whether in the form of seeds, juice, or the intensely mouth-puckering pomegranate molasses.
Pomegranates are also prized for their health benefits and known to be among the most nutritious of all the fruits. Research suggests they contain antioxidants and compounds than can reduce inflammation, a major cause of chronic health conditions.
Many people simply cut pomegranates in half, hold them over a bowl cut-side down and thwack the top firmly with a wooden spoon or rolling pin to dislodge the seeds. This can work well on ripe fruit. Alternatively, slice off the very top of the pomegranate and then make shallow vertical cuts through the skins along the ridges of the fruit. Pry open the fruit with your fingers to expose segments laden with seeds, which you can then remove with your fingers. But be careful: pomegranate juice stains!
To extract the juice from pomegranates, simply cut in half and use a citrus juicer just as you would for oranges and lemons, pressing down firmly to extricate as much juice as possible.
The sweet-but-tart flavour of pomegranate seeds makes them perfect companions for rich fatty meats. Consider pairing them with slow cooked breast or shoulder of lamb – shred or slice the meat, arrange on a platter and strew with the seeds.They work equally well with sweet roasted vegetables such as squash or parsnips, adding pops of bright sharp contrast to the caramel notes of the veg. Or try folding them into a warming winter salad of grains, roasted vegetables and bitter leaves, where they provide a cooling counterpoint to the other flavours.
Equally effectively, try scattering the seeds over ceviche – slices of raw fish ‘cooked’ in citrus. Or sprinkle on top of a warming vegetable soup for refreshing crunch.
Of course, a crimson crown of pomegranate seeds works wonderfully on desserts and puddings. Scatter over a creamy trifle or a bowl of rich Greek Yoghurt. Or soak a citrus-based cake (orange and almond is wonderful) in a syrup made with pomegranate juice and sugar, then top with the seeds.
The tartness of pomegranate juice makes a wonderful addition to salad dressings – just add a splash to the oil instead of vinegar or lemon juice. Or reduce the juice down with a little sugar to make a syrup that’ works beautifully in drinks: add to prosecco or other sweet fizz for a crimson cocktail, or simply add a splash to fizzy water.
Pomegranate molasses, a rich-sweet-sour-fruity syrup, is widely used in Middle Eastern, north African and Mediterranean cookery. It’s widely available in shops these days, but is equally easy to make yourself, and the perfect solution to a glut of pomegranates should you be so lucky.
Simply pour the pomegranate juice into a pan and slowly reduce down over a gentle heat to a syrup consistency – some people add a little lemon juice at the end, or a bit sugar to enhance the sweetness. Use the molasses mixed with olive oil to make a tangy dressing or delicious marinade for duck. Stir through humus or add a spoonful to stews to add depth of flavour and subtle fruitiness. Or pomegranate molasses adds divine tangy contrast churned into or drizzled over ice cream.
Pomegranates pair well with roasted vegetables and rich fatty roast meats; hummus, prosecco or other sweet bubbles; citrus-based cakes; creamy desserts; warm salads;
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