Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The strangest fruit

These are dank days; the skies are grey and no wind stirs. We are not in the dramatic and icy grip of winter, just a leaden silence with no birds’ song. Until the new rhubarb comes out from its candlelit caves there is nothing exotic on the shelves, because we don’t count strawberries from Peru and blueberries from Chile.

But hey, look, it’s a pomegranate! OK, not local, unless you live in Tehran, but seasonal as you like. And so exotic. They were definitely the strangest fruits when I was a child. We dug out the rubies within with bodkins, or tapestry needles. In Greek mythology the pomegranate represents life and regeneration, so it is a timely addition to the table in these deep dark days. The rich colour says sweet, but the taste of the arils is astringent. Evidence shows it to be effective against prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease, and the juice is loaded with vitamin C. Personally I find it a bit cheek-tightening to drink on its own, but there is a wonderful Iranian dish called Fesenjan that uses pomegranate molasses, a reduction of the fruit now easily available in bottles from the supermarket. It has a rich sweet/sour flavour and the walnuts give the dish a surprising texture.

You can use chicken or duck or lamb, and I used guinea fowl.


Duck, chicken, lamb or guinea fowl, cut into serving pieces
2 oz butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. black pepper
4 oz finely chopped walnuts
4 tbsp. pomegranate molasses
hot water or stock
1 medium aubergine
salt (for aubergine)
cooking oil
2 tsp. cardamom (powdered)


In a large pot, melt butter and brown the onions and pepper. Remove with slotted spoon and brown the meat with the walnuts. Return onions to pan, add pomegranate molasses and enough water or stock to barely cover the meat. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and cube the aubergine. Put into a colander, sprinkle with salt, shake and leave for 20 mins to get rid of some of the moisture (otherwise it uses up all your oil!). Rinse, pat dry. Brown in oil in another pan and add to stew. Add cardamom and simmer for another 30 mins until tender. Allow sauce to reduce towards the end of the cooking time. Taste for seasoning.

Serve with rice.


Jasmine said...

What a lovely photo.

Another thing about the fruit is it's usually symbolic of fertility, especially in paintings...

I've lately developed a bit of an addiction to pomegranate juice and pomegranate juice blends.


Welshcakes Limoncello said...

That looks a great recipe. Thanks. Pomegranates are abundant here and I love the seeds. But I can't get pomegranate molasses here. I'm thinking of trying to make my own.

June said...

Hi Jasmine and WL
And a very happy New Year to you.

WL -The mind boggles at the thought of trying to make pomegranate molasses - are you sure you wouldn't like me to decant a bottle into something plastic and send it to you?

Susan in Italy said...

Oh do I love Fesenjan! I didn't know you could do it with lamb and eggplant. Great to know it's versatile.

Note to Welshcakes Lemoncello: If you have stores that cater to immigrant communities (like here in Milan) for example, a "Macellaio Islamico", or a foreigner's grocery you might just find the Pomegramate molasses. I did.

June said...

As there is some Fesenjan left over I am going to turn it into a pasta sauce - might work eh?

Pille said...

Haven't tried fesenjan, but I buy Azerbajiani pomegranate juice - 100% pure stuff, no added sugar - at the central market here. Really good stuff indeed..
And the top picture of the fruit is lovely!

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