INGREDIENT OF THE MONTH - Pomegranate

Vibrant pink pomegranates are the ultimate festive fruit, and though a little tricky to get into, they’re a dream in winter cooking. .

  • Pomegranate recipes

History

Derived from the Latin terms pomum and granatus meaning seeded apple, pomegranates were one of the earliest cultivated fruits, dating back to 2000BC. A native of South West Asia, there are 760 varieties in Iran alone. Sailors first brought them to America in the 18th century – leathery, durable skins made them really easy to transport across choppy seas. Now they’re grown all over the world, from America to Spain and the Middle East.

Biology

Members of the Punica genius, pomegranates are self-pollinated then cross-pollinated by bees and insects. Their bright red flowers help attract these as well as looking beautiful – some fruitless varieties are even grown just for their flowers. Pomegranates are a great source of fibre, folic acid and vitamin C, as well as being packed with polyphenols (cancer-fighting antioxidants) – one glass of pomegranate juice is the equivalent of ten cups of green tea.

How to use

For the whole seeds, cut open the crown, lightly score the skin from top to bottom and break open in a bowl of cold water. The arils (the seeds) will sink to the bottom, while the yellow membrane with float to the top. You can also try banging out the seeds from pomegranate halves with a heavy spoon. For the juice, crush the seeds through a sieve until you have a dry pulp.

Recipe ideas

To make molasses, boil the juice vigorously until you have a thick syrup. Pomegranates are lovely with poultry or in Middle-eastern inspired salads, especially when pared with salty ingredients like feta. They’ll add a festive twist to desserts too – try bashing one over a traditional pavlova, or making a vivid pink sorbet. Put a little sparkle into Christmas cocktails by adding a few pomegranate seeds and a squeeze of clementine juice to your glass before topping up with champagne.

WHAT'S GOOD AT THE MOMENT?

Christmas is coming, so embrace winter's most dazzling ingredients.

Cauliflower

These wonderfully textured brassicas have seen a significant drop in popularity of late. It could be same problem dogging broccoli and brussels sprouts -childhood memories of sogginess and over-cooking – but we think this underrated vegetable deserves a renaissance. Cauliflower is its best when it’s cooked lightly, so try blanching it, steam drying, then frying it quickly with garlic and Middle-Eastern spices such as cumin and coriander. It’s also good deep-fried and served with some punchy aioli. Or try it cooked down with garlic and dried chilli then tossed with orecchiette. Of course, it’s at its best in cauliflower cheese, the ultimate comfort food that's ideally suited to this time of year.

Clementines

What could feel more Christmassy than the fragrant mist of citrus oil showering your hands as you peel open one of these seasonal treats? Tangerines, satsumas and clementines are everywhere you look in December and interestingly, they’re very similar, differing only slightly in their levels of sweetness. Clementines are one of the best fruits for children and are an absolute must in Christmas stockings – a tradition harking back to the Victorian era when fresh fruit was considered a great delicacy. Try using in a winter salad, as their thin skin prevents the juicy flesh saturating the other ingredients. Use in festive baking or add a few slices to your mulled wine. If you find the traditional seville orange marmalade a little too bitter, try making a clementine version instead – lovely on a crumpet!


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