Call it is pomegranate, anar, dalim, this fruit with its gorgeous ruby red kernels is just so attractive.
For a long time I had one grouse against this fruit: that it is difficult to peel, remove kernels from the pith and then juice it. Also, it stains the hands.
Anyway, there are many ways to get to the kernels but a simple one is to ask your fruit guy to split it into four for you. Rest can be done at home using a good spoon. Voila!
Or just do-it-yourself. Cut the anar into two pieces width-wise and put the halves upside down on a plate. Gently tap the fruit with a spoon and most of the kernels become loose. Rest can be scooped out using a spoon.
Cooking with anar
Now that the kernels are so easily accessible let us look at all the good points.
Lets start with dried pomegranate seeds or anardana. Punjabis use anardana in aloo paranthas, in aloo subzi, in chhole and what have you. I prefer using them crushed in rajma, also in a lovely pyaaz anardana chutney that is really nice and tangy. Try using crushed anardana in pakora batter.. it does make a difference.
As for the red glistening kernels.. have them as a fresh fruit or garnish sweets like halwas…I like using this fresh kernels in Aloo Kachalu Chaat, or in Bhindi Anardana, also in raita with pineapple and chillies, or you can go elaborate and use them to stuff paneer pasandas etc.
Pomegranate juice also happens to be doing well with the health freaks as the juice has antioxidants, vitamins, potassium, folic acid and iron. This juice is also used as a popular home remedy to treat diarrhoea. The cocktail/mocktail circuit makes excellent use of grenadine which is thickened and sweetened pomegranate juice.
I came across this tidbit.. that before the Middle East got tomatoes, pomegranate juice was used in Iranian cooking. Traditional dishes like fesenjan is still made with it.
As a coconut is considered auspicious in India, the pomegranate is hallowed in Greece. When one buys a new house, it is a custom for the guests to bring a pomegranate as the first gift. This fruit is kept near the home altar as a symbol of abundance. Pomegranates are also prominent at Greek weddings and funerals.
In many parts of the world, all parts of the tree are used commercially. The rind is used to produce an indelible dye (the staining power is that strong) while the root, bark and flower produce tannins for curing leather and medicines.
Japanese with their traditional bonsai art love the pomegranate tree immensely because the older specimens get unusually twisted barks and still flower and fruit. The best quality pomegranates come from Kandahar in Afghanistan.
Shopping and storing
Look for fruit that is heavy for its size and has bright, unblemished skin. Pomegranates can be kept in the refrigerator for up to two months, or in a cool, dark place for up to a month.
They are just like apples in having a long storage life at low temperatures. The fruit improves in storage, becoming juicier and more flavourful. The fruits are picked off the trees before maturity (they tend to crack open when fully mature).
For an after-school treat for the kids blend together half cup kokum syrup with some jeera powder, kala namak, sugar and loads of crushed ice in a smoothie maker. Pour into glasses with a generous topping of pomegranate kernels. Any
(The writer is a master chef, author and television host. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org )