It surprises me this beautiful fruit that originated in Iran is labelled as “commercially insignificant” due to the abundance of other more common fruits available in our supermarkets and grocers. Does it come down to the flavour? Or is the reason just that people don’t know what to do with it? Personally I love the flavour. I love how the sweet and sour arils pop in your mouth and I love the depth of flavour it adds to sweet and savoury food, and even cocktails. I can’t help but remember our travels through the Middle East, sitting at a local chicken rotisserie watching the world camels go by and scooping up fresh hummus with flatbread and a torn piece of tender chicken, washing it down with freshly-squeezed ice-cold pomegranate juice.
When I saw a tray of these bright red gems in the fruit shop the other day, I just had to grab a couple. A day of pondering and this is what I’ve come up with.
First things first. The stuff that needs to sit while you sleep – marinade the chicken and strain the yoghurt for the labneh – the chicken needs to marinate and the yoghurt needs to drain overnight. Make sure you do this the day before!
Now, time to relax with a cocktail I’ve just created.
In a cocktail shaker combine the vodka, pomegranate juice, lime leaf, vermouth and ice. Shake well.
In the base of a martini glass put a sprinkling of pomegranate arils, strain the cocktail over and sprinkle cinnamon and cardamom over the surface.
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until well combined.
Score chicken pieces deeply with a knife, place in a flat tight-fitting dish, pour marinade over, cover and marinade for 4 hours or overnight.
To cook, preheat oven to 200C. Lift chicken pieces from marinade and place onto an oiled tray and bake for 30 minutes. Turn chicken pieces over, pour any excess liquid into a bowl and set aside. Drizzle the chicken with a little pomegranate molasses and bake for a further 20 minutes, or until cooked through.
To serve, drizzle chicken with the saved juices.
Pour the hot stock over the couscous, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, cover and let it sit for a few minutes. Fluff with a fork to loosen and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat and sauté the onion and garlic until translucent. Add the spices and currants and cook for 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Combine the couscous, cooled onion mixture, seeds and nuts, chopped herbs and roasted red pepper. Check for seasoning and set aside.
To serve, spoon into a bowl, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a scattering of pomegranate arils.
Put the yoghurt into a fine sieve over a bowl where the bottom of the sieve will not touch the bottom of the bowl. Let it sit overnight in the fridge.
Combine the milk and the saffron and let it steep for a few minutes.
Put strained yoghurt (labne) into a bowl and add the sugar, saffron milk, orange blossom water and spices. Mix well and set aside.
To serve, scatter some pomegranate arils into the bottom of a clear glass, dollop some labne into it, scatter more arils and a teaspoon of pomegranate juice, add another dollop of labne, juice and arils and garnish with chopped pistachio’s