Food and Drink

   

In Season: Pomegranates

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Pomegranates are one of but a handful of fruits harvested at this time of year. They hang from their leafless branches like bright red baubles on a Christmas tree.

The fruit has been enjoyed for as long as history records. Their seeds have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. In ancient Greek mythology the beautiful Persephone is abducted by Hades, the god-king of the underworld, who takes her as his bride. When Persephone’s mother Demeter learns that Zeus had conspired in the abduction she refused allow any fruit on earth until her daughter was returned. Zeus agreed, but there was a problem: because Persephone had tasted of the food of Hades (some pomegranate seeds) she had to forever spend a part of the year with her new husband in the underworld. Persephone thus became the queen of the underworld, and goddess of spring growth when she lives on earth, withdrawing to the underworld after harvest.

The name pomegranate comes from the French for apple pomme and the Italian granate for seeds. The fruit can be confronting to try for the first time: they are packed with seeds surrounded by a sweet/sour juicy pulp and no apparent ‘fruit’ as we know it, but it these luscious seeds (arils) that we use.

Choose bright red, firm fruit that feel heavy. Keep them for a few days in the fruit bowl, or longer in the fridge. Score the skin with a knife and prise them open to squeeze out the arils and juice. You can eat the seeds raw but, depending on the variety, their taste can range from sweet to slightly sour, although most in the market are a nice balance.

It is the sour notes for which they are used in classic Persian cuisine, and as a refreshing drink. Pomegranate molasses has become one of the staples of modern Australian cuisine on the back of the popularization of Middle Eastern cooking.

Here is an easy to make salad paring pomegranates with another great ingredient which has made a resurgence from ancient times, the wonderfully healthy grain quinoa.

Quinoa and pomegranate salad
150g quinoa
75g pine nuts
1 pomegranate  (seeds)
½ bunch mint (chopped)
½ bunch coriander (chopped)
1 lime (juice)
4 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Method:
Simmer the quinoa in salted water until cooked, then drain, leave to cool, and fork through to loosen the grains. Toast the pine nuts until golden and leave to cool. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, tossing well. If you want to ‘meat’ up the dish add some shredded cooked chicken.


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