Sunday, January 3, 2010

Christmas Pomegranate Joy

Christmas isn’t all about food – it’s about wine and sherry too. Overindulgence is the norm but boy do we regret it!

It can certainly be no coincidence that Mother Nature gifted pomegranates to us at this time of year. Pomegranates are, quite simply, one of nature’s super foods. Packed full of anti-oxidants, they not only help clear your body of free radicals but they also lower cholesterol, prevent heart disease, aid dental and blood plaque, to list a few of their benefits. Above all, a dish of glistening seeds or glass of juice from this fabulous fruit is one of the best hangover cures.

Pomegranates are an ancient fruit, even mentioned in the Book of Exodus. The ancient city of Granada in Spain was renamed after the fruit during the Moorish period. Spanish colonists later introduced the fruit to the Caribbean and Latin America, leading to the naming of the country Grenada – often also known as Granada. Its regal crown has been depicted in ancient monuments and coinage. It is believed that the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden was indeed the pomegranate and not an apple after all. This vitamin rich fruit has indeed a rich history.

At Annie B’s Spanish Kitchen, we become really excited when the new season’s pomegranates arrive in the market – normally at their best from September through to December. We use pomegranate seeds (called arils) in couscous, through salads, mixing through cucumber raita, as well as sprinkling them over any Moroccan inspired dish. They are great through fruit salads, over cereal and this year, I’ve been making cocktails!

Pomegranates probably fell out of fashion because they aren’t really user friendly. In our time- conscious society, sitting down to extract the edible seeds of a pomegranate can be messy and time consuming. Many supermarkets in UK and in Spain now sell small packets of fresh pomegranate seeds which are convenient but many fresh vitamins will have been lost. Pomegranate juice can be bought commercially too which is great but again, the longer the juice is outside the fruit shell, the more the vitamins disappear.

Extracting the juice

I’ve tried putting a skin free Pomegranate through my juicer with no success. What works best for me is actually cutting it in half and treating it like a half orange, using a normal electrical juicer. Wash the fruit first and then gently cut it in half across the circumference. Squeeze with gentle pressure on the electrical squeezer watching the fabulous ruby red juice fall into the jug below. Between squeezing each half, remove the discarded seeds caught in the basket. I squeeze these by hand to remove the final drops of nectar. And then squeeze another half and continue the above process until you have the desired amount of juice.

Extracting the seeds

One of the many things I’ve loved about running my cooking classes is the exchange of information between us all in class. It’s great to learn different techniques and methods from guests. One lovely guest this summer from Seattle, demonstrated how to painlessly remove the seeds from a Pomegranate. This method is simple, fast and no redecoration required.

With a serrated knife, cut of the crown of the fruit, exposing the beginning of the seeds. Then make 8 small incisions along the exposed flesh at 12 o’clock, 3 o’clock etc. Take a bowl large enough to fit the pomegranate and your hands, fill it with water and submerge the fruit. With both hands, start pulling apart gently, allowing the seeds to become free from the pith. The white membrane will float to the top and the seeds will sink to the bottom. Discard the skin, skim off the pith and then drain. Amazing – so easy!

NB.Depending on the variety, some Pomegranates and more bitter than others – adjust additives (soda, tonic, orange, honey etc) to suit taste



In a BIG glass with several ice cubes, mix 3 parts Pomegranate juice and 3 parts Clementine juice with 2 parts Vodka or Gin. Add a squeeze of fresh lime (optional) and top up with as much soda or tonic as desired. This is a health drink so enjoy without guilt!

Pom Royale

Either using Pomegranate juice on its own or again mixed with Clementine or Orange juice, half fill a glass and top up with cava. Excellent hangover cure.

The Morning after Breakfast

It’s an idea to prepare this the day before so that you open the fridge that morning and there it will be, winking at you.

Pomegranate seeds

Fresh Orange Juice

Ground Cinnamon

Place seeds in individual dishes. Cover with chilled juice and sprinkle with fresh ground cinnamon. Serve with yoghurt if desired.

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