“Carsidan aldim bir tane, eve geldim bin tane”
“One I bought from the market, became a thousand when I came home”
Old Turkish proverb
Thanks in part to the likes of Claudia Roden and Yotam Ottolenghi, the Middle East is on the map for something other than political folly. Food has a way of unearthing ways to embrace and relate to one another, even those places that have been demonised and ‘otherised’ for so long. Laughter, love and humanity live in abundance in places where food of such colour, beauty and complexity lives.
Not of course to diminish the very real conflict and instabilities in the long-suffering Middle East; but food is all-powerful, and one of the sincerest ways to draw humanity out and build bonds. Through the simple words “you like hummus?” I’ve witnessed an awkward first moment thaw and turn into laughter. Well, who doesn’t love Hummus? And now it seems we love the pomegranate too.
It was when I saw Jamie Oliver sprinkling pomegranate seeds onto a traditional Christmas Roast goose recipe that I thought, “that’s it now”. It’s in the supermarkets, in juices, desserts, salads and sandwiches even. The pomegranate is having its time in the spotlight. I daren’t pop down to Shoreditch to see what sorcery they’re doing with it! But well deserved is this attention. So majestic this fruit is that it holds a very virtuous place in the heart of Middle Easterns. It’s the symbol of ‘bereket’, meaning fertility, abundance and blessings. More importantly, it is a symbol for Kurds all across the Middle East; many in numbers, divided maybe by borders, but united as one in identity and heart.
So virtuous and majestic it is in its versatility that it can turn any dish into something quite exciting with its texture and burst of flavour. So here is my ode to the Pomegranate in 10 recipes:
Lentil Kofta with pomegranate salsa
2 gem lettuce
½ cup of fine bulgur wheat
½ cup of red lentils
2 white onions
* 2 tablespoons or tomato/pepper paste
3 Spring onions
½ bunch Mint
½ bunch Parlsey
2 teaspoons Cumin
Juice of 1 lemon
Season to taste
½ bunch Coriander
1 spring onions
1 cup pomegranate molasses
1 clove garlic
½ cup of olive oil
1. Boil the red lentils for 10 minutes with double its quantity of water. Turn the hob off and add the bulgur wheat. Leave aside to cool until the bulgur has fully absorbed the remaining moisture, and the mixture is fully dry.
2. Whilst this is cooling, finely chop the onions and cook down in oil and add tomato paste, cooking on a low heat for a remaining 10 minutes
3. Once both mixes have cooled, mix together with cumin, paprika and salt.
4. Add in the finely chopped herbs and again with your hands with lemon juice.
5. Once thoroughly mixed, grab a handful at a time and squeeze into small koftas.
6. To make the pomegranate salsa, finely chop all of the herbs and mix together all the ingredients.
7. To serve, place each kofta into a gem lettuce and drizzle with the salsa.
Fennel, green apple and pomegranate salad
4 bulbs of fennel
2 green apples
1 bunch coarsely chopped dill
½ bunch mint leaves
½ bunch parsley leaves
Seeds of 2 pomegranates
1/3 cup of Pomegranate Molasses
Juice of 1 lemon
6 tbsp. olive oil
1. Cut the fennel in half, carve the core out and slice thinly lengthways.
2. Cut the apple up to the core on either side and slice thinly.
3. Mix the apple and fennel with lemon juice and olive oil.
4. Add the pomegranate seeds, parsley, dill and mint leaves and mix.
Baked Camembert with pomegranate
1 whole 240g Camembert, plastic wrapping and lid removed but still in its wooden box, at room temperature
¼ seeds of 1 pomegranate
1 garlic clove, sliced
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp. olive oil
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
1. Remove any plastic packaging from the cheese and place back in its box, leaving the lid off.
2. Pierce the top of the cheese around the edge and lift like a lid. Sprinkle a handful of pomegranates inside and cover it back up. Pierce the top with small incisions in several places with a sharp knife and insert pieces of garlic and sprigs of thyme into the slits.
3. Drizzle the cheese with olive oil and place on a baking tray still in its box. Bake in the oven for 20 mins until the top begins to get golden brown.
Serve with warm crusty bread to dip into.
Baked Cheesecake with Pomegranate Compote, Berries & Pistachios
Choose a baked vanilla cheesecake recipe of your choice. I recommend the BBC Good Food version:
For the Pomegranate Compote*
¾ C pomegranate seeds
3 TBS sugar
¾ C water
zest of one half of a lemon
For the Garnish
300g mixed berries
In a saucepan, add the pomegranate seeds, water, sugar and lemon zest. Bring to a low boil, then let it simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the sugar has boiled down and the mixture gets a little sticky, let it cool. Once cool, the consistency will thicken further into a thick syrup.
Once cheesecake has cooled, cover with 2/3 of the compote, sprinkle the berries, then the pistachios. Finally drizzle the remaining compote.
Chocolate Pomegranate & Cranberry Brittle
200g Dark (70% Cacao) Chocolate
150g pomegranate seeds
100g Finely Chopped Dried Cranberry’s
1. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water (making sure the water does not directly touch the bowl).
2. Once the chocolate has melted, stir in half of the pomegranate seeds and cranberry’s.
3. Pour the chocolate over some greaseproof paper and roughly spread over the paper with a palette knife until 5mm thick.
4. Sprinkle the remaining cranberry’s and pomegranate’s on top and press down.
5. Place in the refrigerator until completely cooled and set.
Pomegranate Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Simply place some strong cheddar cheese and pomegranate seeds in between two slices of some good sourdough bread.
Heat and griddle pan/skillet with a knob of butter and a tbsp. of olive oil.
Press down the sandwich int the pan, turning when both sides are crispy and browned.
* you can add some parma ham to the sandwich or some garlic and sage into the buttered pan for a bit of extra pazzaz.
Jewelled Riced With Pomegranate Lamb Shanks
4 Lamb shanks
250ml pomegranate molasses
3 cloves garlic
3 sprigs thyme
3 sprigs rosemary
1 fresh red chilli
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. paprika
3 tbsp olive oil
Half bunch mint
Zest of 1 lemon
Season to taste
300ml red wine
The BBC Good Food site has a great recipe
Place all of the marinade ingredients into a food processor and blitz to form a paste. Cover the lamb shanks with the paste and leave for at least 3 hours.
Place the shanks into a deep baking tray. Add the red wine and cover with foil.
Cook for 3 hours in 170 degrees. Remove the foil and cook for a further 30 minutes.