For a fruit that Greek mythology refers to as ‘the fruit of the dead’, the pomegranate is rather vibrant and beautiful; certainly not what you would expect after hearing that grisly moniker.
The ruby red seeds encased in the reddish shell are more reminiscent of prosperity and abundance rather than death. And that is certainly how the pomegranate has been depicted in much of religion, culture and art — as a symbol of fertility and abundance, and even as a fruit of paradise.
Native to the Mediterranean region, Iran and northern India, this ‘many seeded apple’ is considered a ‘super fruit’ by modern nutritionists; it contains significant amounts of Vitamin C and antioxidants and has numerous disease-fighting properties.
Most commonly consumed as juice, pomegranate arils (as the seeds are called) are also used to garnish several savoury dishes, and this is especially true in the Middle East. In the subcontinent, anaar dana (dried pomegranate seeds) is often used in curries and chutney. However, when it comes to baking and desserts, the use of anaar (as it is locally known) is relatively rare. And yet, considering the berry-like sweetness and tartness of the pomegranate, it is the perfect foil for chocolate and other confections.
The berry-like sweetness and tartness of the pomegranate makes it the perfect foil for chocolate and other confections
The following recipes — tried and tested at home — are quick twists on traditional desserts and baked goods. The addition of the pomegranate adds a pop of tart-sweet flavour and a new note to standard recipes.
POMEGRANATE AND PISTACHIO MENDIANT
In France, a mendiant (p. mon-dee-ahn) is a flat disc of chocolate decorated with a hazelnut, a small piece of fig, a raisin and an almond to represent the four monastic orders. I’ve used the same concept but topped this mendiant with anaar and pistachios which are a great accompaniment to the chocolate. Use good quality chocolate that you enjoy eating out of hand and the result will be great.
- 200g dark chocolate
- 100g pomegranate arils
- 50g pistachios, roughly chopped
Line a flat tray with baking paper and set aside. Melt the dark chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan filled with simmering water. Drop tablespoons full of melted chocolate on the wax paper, flattening them slightly and shaping them into discs with the spoon (this is relatively easy as the chocolate tends to fall in a circular shape).
While the chocolate discs are still liquid, drop a few pomegranate arils on to them and sprinkle some of the pistachios. Set in the fridge for 20 minutes or until the discs have hardened. Peel the discs from the wax paper and store in the fridge in an airtight container.
CHOCOLATE AND POMEGRANATE CHIP COOKIES
Who doesn’t love a chocolate chip cookie?
The addition of pomegranate arils adds a pleasantly surprising burst of berry flavour to your standard cookie.
- 170g flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 115g unsalted butter
- 70g caster sugar
- 60g brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 2 eggs
- 90g chocolate chips
- 50g pomegranate arils
Pre-heat the oven to 165°C and line a couple of baking trays with wax paper. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl and set aside. Beat together the butter and the sugars in a separate bowl (you can use a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment).
Once the mixture is creamy, add the vanilla and the eggs and beat on medium high speed for one minute. Using a spatula, mix in the dry ingredients, followed by the chocolate chips and pomegranate arils. Use a tablespoon to drop mounds of the cookie batter at least one inch apart from each other on to the lined baking trays. Bake for 13-14 minutes.
Pomegranate season is short, so using the fruit to make jam is an excellent way of preserving it for year-long usage. The jam can be eaten on toast and also added to other desserts for that quick anaar fix.
- 750ml pomegranate juice
- 1 cup pomegranate arils (you can use as many or as few as you like)
- 600g sugar
- Juice of one lemon
Juice the pomegranates to extract 750ml of juice. The best way is to blitz the arils in a blender for a few seconds to extract a little bit of the juice and put them in a large strainer and use a spatula to push out as much juice as possible. The process is time consuming but worth it!
Put the juice and the sugar in a large pot (stainless steel works best) on moderate heat and stir until the sugar is combined. Turn up the heat and boil for 30 minutes, skimming off the foam from the top. Add the pomegranate arils and lemon juice and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
To check if the jam is done, drop a teaspoonful on a chilled glass plate. If it holds its shape in a mound, it’s done, if it is runny, continue boiling and perform the chilled plate check after every minute or so. Store the jam in sterilised glass jars. As soon as the jars are filled, screw on the lids and turn them upside down for 30 minutes — this will improve shelf life.
Marylou Andrew is an alumna of Le Cordon Bleu. She can be reached at email@example.com
Originally published in Dawn, EOS, November 18th, 2018