Oasis Magazine Articles

Pomegranates 101

By Oasis Staff Writer



Originally published in print as "Diner's Delight"


Over the course of 4000 years, the pomegranate has played an important role in nearly every corner of the globe – as a symbol of prosperity, fertility and hope while also satiating hunger with its abundance of nutrients, fibre and sweet tanginess. The thick skinned “seeded apple”, as its Medieval Latin name suggests, can often stain clothes and prove challenging to crack, however this fruit has been recorded in history, mythical lore, and classic art over the ages and this September, it is gracing us with its bountiful harvest.

A (Brief) History

The pomegranate originally hails from Persia and the western Himalayas where it thrived, despite drought and plunging temperatures. Over centuries, it has been cultivated in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Russia, China, and all over the Mediterranean region.

Revered in Ancient Egypt, the pomegranate was one of the fruits required in the Pharaoh’s residence and was buried with King Tutankhamun in his tomb. Pomegranates were painted on tomb walls to symbolize life after death, and the fruit had many uses, including the use of its juice prepared as a tonic to kill parasites.

In Greek myths, the pomegranate was known as the “fruit of the dead”, and symbolized both seasonal change and the binding nature of marriage. Hades, the god of the underworld, tempted

Persephone with pomegranate seeds to keep her trapped in his realm. By consuming several seeds, Persephone was bound to spend half the year in the underworld with Hades (representational of the months of autumn and winter) while in spring, she was allowed back up to land to be reunited with her mother Demeter, the goddess of harvest, making way for the earth to bloom.

Pomegranates have also been mentioned or become symbolic in nearly all the major religions, including Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and many more. The Prophet Muhammad considered the fruit to be nutritious for both physical and emotional health, while it is also often represented in Buddhist art, symbolizing its status as one of the “three blessed fruits.”

Health Benefits

In short, the benefits are wide ranging. Pomegranates contain antioxidants that help prevent kidney disease, packing more antioxidants than grape, blueberry, and orange juices and even surpassing green tea. Drinking pomegranate juice also protects against dental plaque, and lowers levels of amyloid plaque – the plaque that accumulates between the brain’s nerve cells, a hallmark sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

A University of California study reported that the components of pomegranate juice may stop the movement of prostate cancer cells, also weakening the chemical signals that propagate the initial spread of cancer. Researchers in Israel also found the juice may prevent and destroy breast cancer cells.

Uses in Cuisine

Although many just dig into a bowl of the delicious seeds with a sprinkling of sugar or lemon, the fruit is also a popular garnish in salads and is best accompanied in poultry dishes. Pomegranate syrup is often used as a marinade or in salad dressings.

Here are some quick and easy recipes to follow, courtesy of BBC Good Food.

Quinoa, Feta & Pomegranate Salad

Ingredients

• 300g quinoa

• 1 red onion, finely chopped

• 85g raisins

• 100g crumbled feta cheese

• 200g pomegranate seeds

• 85g toasted pine nuts

• Small bunch each; coriander, flat leaf parsley and mint, roughly chopped

• 3 juiced lemons (large)

• 1 tsp sugar

• Salt and fresh ground pepper to season

Directions:

1. Cook the quinoa following pack instructions – it should be tender with a little bite. Drain well and spread over a platter to cool quickly and steam dry.

2. When the quinoa is just about cool stir through all of the remaining ingredients with seasoning to taste.

Pomegranate Chicken with Almond Couscous

Ingredients

• 1 tbsp vegetable oil

• 200g couscous

• 1 chicken stock cube

• 1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced

• 600g chicken mini fillets

• 2 tbsp harissa sauce

• 190ml unsweetened fresh pomegranate juice

• 100g pomegranate seeds

• 100g toasted flaked almonds

• Bunch of chopped mint

Directions:

1. Boil a kettle of water while heating the oil in a large frying pan. Place couscous in a bowl with some seasoning and crumble in half the stock cube. Fry onion in the pan for a few minutes until softened. Pour boiling water over the couscous until water level just reaches over the grains, then cover the bowl with a tea towel and set aside for 5-10 minutes until water is absorbed.

2. In same pan, add the chicken fillets and brown on all sides. Stir in the harissa with the pomegranate juice then crumble in the rest of the stock cube and season well. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened and the chicken is cooked through. Stir through the pomegranate seeds, saving a few to scatter over before serving.

3. Fluff up the couscous with a fork and stir through the almonds and mint. Serve the chicken on the couscous with the sauce spooned over.

Orange & Pomegranate Cheesecake

Ingredients

• 250g plain digestive biscuits

• 100g melted butter

• 600g full-fat cream cheese

• 3 oranges, zested - keep the segments for decoration

• 3 tbsp milk

• 100g icing sugar

• 150ml double cream

• 1 seeded pomegranate

Directions:

1. Crush the biscuits roughly – either crush them in a plastic food bag with a rolling pin, or put them in a food processor. Transfer to a bowl, mix in the melted butter and pour the mixture into a 23cm tin. Press the biscuit mixture down evenly to form the cheesecake base. Chill in fridge until set, about 30 minutes.

2. Put the soft cheese, orange zest, milk, and icing sugar in a bowl and blend until smooth. Add the cream and whisk until the mixture is the consistency of thick custard. Pour the filling over the chilled biscuit base and spread evenly. Return to the fridge and chill until set, at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.

3. To serve, top with the orange segments and scatter over the pomegranate seeds.





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