The pinky-red jewel-like seeds of the pomegranate can add sparkle to any dish - sprinkle onto porridge, stir into couscous, toss into salads or use to top your favourite tagine or stir fry.
The pomegranate has long been celebrated as a traditional remedy, with the ancient Ayurvedic system of Indian medicine utilising the fruit and bark as a remedy for diarrhoea and dysentery, and the seeds and juice as a tonic for the heart and throat. More unusual uses of the seeds or rind are as a contraceptive (with the rind as a suppository), but enough on that....
Modern nutritional analysis shows that a 100g serving of pomegranate seeds provides 12% RDA of vitamin C, 16% vitamin K plus polyphenols such as ellagitannins and flavonoids. These free radical scavengers can reduce heart disease risk, by maintaining the health of arteries. Some studies have shown that pomegranate juice consumption can reduce blood pressure, inhibit viral infections and the extract has antibacterial effects against dental plaque. The seeds are also a great source of fibre, which has benefits in reducing the risk of colon cancer.
'POM' juice was all the rage back in 2010, but interestingly the FDA issued a warning letter to one manufacturer for using scientific literature to make illegal, unproven anti-disease claims. There are strict rules on the level of evidence required before claims can be made unequivocally about certain products and whether they can be used as a preventative or curative remedy. Pomegranate remains the subject of ongoing clinical trials, with 58 trials registered in 2014 in areas such as diabetes, prostate cancer and heart disease.
In spite of the lack of conclusive data to support the use of pomegranate in disease-risk, adding this fruit into dishes certainly boosts the nutritional value, as well making your dish look and taste great! Here's two of my favourite recipes to brighten up your January.
Mary Berry's quinoa, feta and pomegranate salad (serves 4)
I made this over Christmas. It's perfect on its own or alongside a piece of fish or chicken. It also does well on consecutive days if you wanted to make ahead on a Sunday and use for lunches Monday and Tuesday! A wholemeal pitta would also be a good accompaniment.
- 175 (6oz) quinoa
- 400ml vegetable stock (I used Marigold reduced-salt swiss vegetable bouillon - also great as a light beverage on a cold day)
- 4 spring onion, trimmed, halved lengthways and thinly sliced
- 50g mild Peppadew peppers from a jar, roughly chopped (I used more for a bigger kick)
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 100g pomegranate seeds or 1/2-1 fresh pomegranate
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 125 (4 1/2 ounces) feta cheese
- Rinse the quinoa in cold running water in a fine meshed sieve then put in a medium pan and pour over the stock, bring to the boil and stir. Reduce the heat to a medium-low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Note: keep a watch so it doesn't dry out and burn!
- Drain the quinoa in a fine-meshed sieve, then put back in the hot pan you just used. Leave off the heat, covered, for 10 minutes, to dry off in the steam. Spread out the quinoa in a large shallow serving dish. Leave to cool.
- Mix in the spring onions and peppers, then stir in the lemon juice and oil. Gently stir in the coriander, mint and parsley.
- The remove the pomegranate seeds from the pomegranate, cut the fruit in half then use a rolling pan to bash out the seeds into a bowl (this is quite satisfying). To separate the seeds from the rind you can also put a bit of water in the bowl - the rind will float to the top and the seeds will sink, making it easy to separate. , and half the pomegranate seeds with their juice (see below).
- Add half the pomegranate seeds to the salad and season with salt and pepper.
- Crumble the feta over the salad, scatter over the remaining pomegranate seeds and add an extra grinding of pepper.
288 calories per serving.
Spiced fish tagine with pomegranate couscous.
This recipe is from Tom Kime of Saturday Kitchen. I made a couple of changes - instead of the plaice fillets I prefer a meatier fish, so opted for a nice thick skinless fillet of haddock from the fishmonger which I cut into chunky cubes. The ras-el-hanout can be kept in the fridge and used in other dishes - I didn't use a spice grinder or coffee grinder, but found it was fine ground in a pestle and mortar. This is a lovely warming dish but next time I prepare this I'll add a side of kale or other steamed greens as I prefer to include several vegetables with all my main courses!
For the ras-el-hanout:
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg, or to taste
- ¼ tsp freshly ground cardamom seeds
- ¼ tsp freshly ground cloves
For the tagine
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
- 3 onions, peeled, finely sliced
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp freshly ground ras-el-hanout (see above)
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 3 ripe tomatoes, seeds removed, roughly chopped
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 110ml/4fl oz fish stock or water
- 4-6 plaice fillets, skin removed
For the couscous
- 200g/7oz couscous
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ lemon, juice only
- 250ml/9fl oz boiling water
- 50g/2oz pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
- 4 tbsp pomegranate seeds
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lemon, juice only
- 4 fresh coriander sprigs, leaves only
- For the ras-el-hanout, mix all of the ras-el-hanout ingredients together until well combined. Grind in a spice grinder or coffee grinder to a fine powder. Store in an airtight jar.
- For the tagine, heat a terracotta tagine or heavy-based, lidded casserole over a medium to high heat (I used a large heavy based saucepan).
- Heat the oil in the tagine or casserole, then add the garlic and fry for 3-4 minutes, or until pale golden-brown. Note: keep watch of the garlic as it can quickly burn!
- Add the onions and reduce the heat, then cook the onions slowly for 10-12 minutes, or until softened but not coloured.
- When the onions have softened, push them to one side of the tagine or casserole, then increase the heat slightly and add the cumin seeds, ras-el-hanout and cayenne pepper to the empty side of the casserole. Fry for 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant, then stir the spices into onion mixture until they coat the onions.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring well.
- Add the fish stock or water (I used water), then return the mixture to a simmer.
- Add the plaice fillets to the tagine or casserole, then spoon over some of the sauce to cover the fish. Cover the tagine or casserole with the lid, then reduce the heat to low and continue to cook for eight minutes, or until the plaice fillets are cooked through. The smell whilst you're cooking this is wonderful.
- Meanwhile, for the couscous, place the couscous, olive oil and lemon juice into a bowl. Pour over the boiling water, stir once, then cover the bowl tightly with cling film. Set aside for five minutes, or until the couscous has absorbed all of the water, then fluff the couscous grains with a fork.
- Stir the chopped pistachios, pomegranate seeds and coriander into the couscous until well combined.
- Just before serving, squeeze the lemon juice over the tagine, then sprinkle over the coriander leaves.
- To serve, divide the couscous equally among four to six serving plates. Place one plaice fillet on top of each serving, then spoon over the remaining tagine.