Part one: Queen of the underworld
As you may have gathered last fortnight, it was my birthday this month. One of the highlights was seeing our good friend and occasional brunch companion, Tilly.
“Happy birthday, Amy!” she said. “I brought you a present!”
She then handed me two bright orange-red spheres.
“I want that colour in a lipstick,” was my first thought, which I immediately expressed aloud (along with my gratitude, I’m not a monster).
“What is it?” For some reason, Tilly wasn’t sure. Apparently I am now someone for whom other people buy mystery fruit. This is quite a plot twist in my life story, considering seven months ago I hadn’t even eaten an apple. When Hattie arrived half an hour later, she informed us it was a pomegranate.
There are two things I know about pomegranates. Firstly, Paul Hollywood doesn’t like them in cakes. We learnt that on Bake Off this season.
Secondly, they are the fruit of the underworld. And I only know THIS because Hattie made a pomegranate joke about getting stuck with Hades and I completely didn’t get it.
“It’s a really well known myth, Amy!” she insisted indignantly.
“How am I supposed to know all the myths?” I replied, feeling like I was back in the office and someone was asking me to comment on BBC sitcoms of the 1970s (which happens far too often).
We checked on Twitter; I now concede publicly that it’s a well known myth. But in my defence, Persephone wasn’t in the Disney version of Hercules.
Anyway when it came to actually eating the pomegranates, I had no idea where to start. The more I researched them, the more complicated it became.
All the recipes referred to pomegranate ‘molasses’ (whatever that means), or they just involved scattering the seeds in a salad (snore).
Even dismantling a pomegranate is unnecessarily complicated. Make some delicate slices, says WikiHow, then break the pieces apart into a bowl of water, but make sure you dispose of the skin and the ‘membrane’.
Guys, membrane is not an appetising word. After about ten minutes of cutting and shelling and disposing of membrane, I too felt like I was trapped in the underworld with Hades and thousands of lost souls. No wonder Paul Hollywood hates them so much.
Still, once you stop complaining it’s quite a soothing task to break all the seeds apart, and they are an amazing colour. I would have totally worn them as beads in the early 2000s.
They taste great too – rich and juicy and surprisingly full of flavour considering how tiny they are.
But I’m not sure it’s worth all that effort.
Part two: Stewing over
(It’s another busy week and in my haste to actually eat something, I forgot to take a picture of my ingredients. Sorry gang. Presumably you’ve never really been here for a slick, professional blogging experience though, right?)
Step one: Season your chicken in paprika, salt and pepper. I’m terrible at seasoning chicken when it’s raw and slimy, but do your best (and possibly top it up later). Brown the chicken in a good sized stew pot, then remove and place to the side.
Step two: Chop onions. Cry profusely, like you do every other time. Chop garlic. Cry profusely because it’s so small and fiddly and WHY DID WE FORGET TO BUY GARLIC PASTE AGAIN? Brown them in the pot, seasoning with coriander and chilli.
Step three: Add the tomato passata and a mug of pomegranate juice. (I made this by processing most of the seeds I harvested in part one, then straining through a sieve. It was a faff. I’m relegating the ordeal to parentheses to spare you guys another moan, but all together the whole seeding and juicing thing took about as long as cooking the stew.) Bring to the boil.
Step four: After all the time spent juicing, I couldn’t be bothered to also make the molasses in the end. But if you wanted, you could boil pomegranate juice until it became more like a syrup (apparently). Instead, I googled around and discovered that, as it is a sharp and sweet flavour, vinegar and honey are a decent substitute. I substituted the substitute with vinegar and golden syrup, because it’s all we had in the cupboard. It worked fine.
Step five: Add the chicken back to the stew, cover and leave to simmer for half an hour. Stir occasionally. Get tomato on the crisp white shirt your wore for some reason.
Step six: While it’s simmering, boil some rice.
Step seven: Once it’s served, scatter with leftover pomegranate seeds.
This was so good. It was sticky and spicy and while the seeds have a strong flavour by themselves, they are a really good balance with the sauce. It makes for a great autumnal meal.
I would definitely make it again. But next time I’m buying the pomegranate juice pre-juiced.