The warm jazz tones of Diana Krall played in my head, as she sang Peel Me a Grape, while I focused a paring knife on a shiny, jewel-toned pomegranate. A fleeting thought came unbidden, what if the 1962 song had said, “Peel me a pomegranate….”
You see these are tricky fruits, beautiful to look at - who hasn’t admired a Mughal miniature with depictions of these ‘seeded apples’ – and delicious to the taste, sweet and sharp in the same go. They are one of my personal favourites, be it in Turkish Gavurdagi salad, scattered on Lebanese moutabbel, in kababs, coolers or the fabulously decadent Iranian Fesenjan, a stew of chicken in a base of ground walnuts and pomegranate molasses. It works just as well as a snack by itself. However, try to peel them, definitely not for the faint of heart.
Expect juice stains everywhere and very little fruit to show for it. The berry, yes botanically that is what it is, with seeds and pulp are often found in relatively arid areas. It is drought tolerant with a 78 per cent water content in the pulp loaded with anthocyanins said to be anti-inflammatory and anti-viral in nature.
The fruit has a history that’s almost as old as civilisation, with references to it in religions, cultures, literature and paintings. From the abduction of Persephone in Greek legend to the Han dynasty of China, the pomegranate signifies beauty, abundance, wisdom and prosperity. Some of the best cultivar comes from Afghanistan with its characteristic deep red skin that would give many a Burmese ruby a complex.
As I said … they are beautiful. However, like all things worthy, it takes a bit of an effort – to peel them. Yes, I am back to where I started. Apologies for the ramble.
After having witnessed Iranians who merrily roll the fruit on a hard surface, peel off just the right bits to treat it like Nature’s tetrapack of juice to take a glorious sip, my lack of skill seemed embarrassing. Especially as I love these sharp, bright kernels. And they are in season right now in the UAE.
So, I did what any sane person would do – Google away. And up popped video after video with several suggestions. After a quick binge watch, this is what I found to be most useful:
• Score the fruit skin in a circle about two inches away from the top. Don’t go deep. The pulp will get cut.
• Slowly lift it off. Quite easy. Then, again, in a circle, remove the hard white bit in the centre. Now you can see what botanists would call the asymmetrical chambers of fruit separated by a thin wall that resembles a citrus pith. Follow the pith line as a guide and score the rind downwards. Stop an inch short of the base tip.
• Now pull the chambers apart, pick the thin membranes off. Upturn in a bowl of chilled water, then tap the skin using the base of a wooden spoon. The garnet seeds will fall in and sink while the membrane floats up. Remove, drain and serve in a bowl.
All this sounds way too complicated, then do what the food site thecafesucrefarine.com said – cut the fruit in half, hold it upturned over a large bowl and give several thwacks on the fruit rind with a wooden spoon to knock the seeds out. A bit more messy, but quite easy.
I preferred the first method - was far neater and easier to store for later use if needed.
Share your favourite method to peel a pomegranate with us on firstname.lastname@example.org