9 February 2012

Ode to Pomegranates

I don't know about you, but when I discover a new way to use one of my favourite foods – say, a fruit – I tend to get very happy and just a little obsessed. This is not a new feeling; it happens from time to time. It happened when I discovered tomato juice in Germany. It happened when I discovered salt could play a decisive role in butter in France. And, it happened on my much talked about trip to Israel, when I found that pomegranates are just as good in dinners as they are in drinks or au natural.

We had spent an entire day in Jerusalem, and though we had eaten bagele with za'atar just a few hours earlier, we were hungry again (funny how that happens), and looking for food. Eventually we ended up in a Israeli-Lebanese restaurant on the outskirts of the capital, were we greedily indulged ourselves to a traditional mezze. It was food gluttony of utmost quality: pita, hummus (chickpea spread), labneh (goat cheese), stuffed grape vine, grilled chicken hearts, mint tea, pomegranate couscous and falafel (deep-fried chickpea balls) for dinner, followed by Turkish coffee and a slice of baklava, to boost our insulins, for dessert. But it was the couscous that remained in my tastebud-memory. How could I resist it? My two passions – pomegranate and couscous – in one dish. Brilliant! 

Then again, pomegranates have been used in savoury dishes for millennia. Though pomegranate trees grow wild in Israel (there are some just outside the old city walls of Jerusalem), they actually originate in Iran. Persians used it to make fesenjān, or chicken with pomegranate syrup and walnuts, and these days they're also used in soups, salads, on kebabs and in muhammara. That's not to say that pomegranates are new to Israel. Besides being mentioned in the Old Testament, 5000-year-old carbonised pomegranates have been found in Jericho. So they're pretty native now. 

But back to the couscous, and back to Norway. These past week I've been experimenting quite a lot with couscous. My parent's aren't particularly fond of this durum gem, whereas I obviously am, so I've been working real hard to make tasty couscous dishes for everyone to enjoy. With the pomegranate couscous in the forefront of my mind, I opted to mix the two together, with two twists. The first: chicken fillets spiced with za'atar, chilli and baharat and fried in a pan with olive oil and white wine. The second: pomegranate molasses. Rather than simply using pomegranate seeds, I thought the molasses would give the dish the certain je ne sais quoi I craved, and it did. The chicken was mixed with the fluffy couscous, spiced with cayenne, coriander, pomegranate seeds and rucola, and finally, mixed with the (homemade!) pomegranate molasses. The result? Not only did my parents eat it, they actually liked it too!

Well, at least my mother did.

This recipe is really large – enough for six people – so feel free to cut the quantities in half. You'll want to use good-quality pomegranate molasses, either by making it yourself or buying a bottle at Middle Eastern grocery store. If you make it yourself, you also have the added joy of pomegranate seeds :) I also recommend serving it with pita – in my case, za'atar pita, which you can substitute with sumac. Plain works as well. Of course I don't have any plans to stop consuming pomegranates in all forms known to man, which means you may find me eating pomegranate couscous with pomegranate juice for dinner and pomegranate sorbet for dessert. It really never hurts to have too many dinner options either.

I'll be submitting the Za'atar Bread to Yeastspotting

Pomegranate and Chicken Couscous
Original recipe by © Marion Fløysvik

400 g. chicken, in pieces

200-250 ml. pomegranate molasses
300 g. pomegranate seeds
400 g. rucola leaves, rinsed and dried

Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 dl. white wine
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. coriander
3 tsp. za'atar 
1 tsp. powdered garlic
1 tsp. Arabic Baharat
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
300 g. couscous

Pomegranate Molasses
500 ml. pomegranate juice
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tbsp. sugar

1.In a frying pan, warm the olive oil, and cook the chicken pieces. Once all the chicken is thoroughly cooked, add the lemon juice and white wine. Let the chicken pieces simmer in the liquids for about 5 minutes, then coat the chicken in the spices. Take off heat, and reserve. Meanwhile, cook the couscous in salt water until light and fluffy, take off heat and reserve.

2.Pomegranate Molasses: Mix the sugar, lemon juice and pomegranate juice together in a saucepan. Let simmer on low heat for approx. 1 1/2 hour, stirring every once in a while, until the sause has thickened and reduced in volume.

3.In a large serving bowl, mix the rucola, couscous, chicken and pomegranate seeds together. Pour the molasses over couscous, and mix until thoroughly coated. Feel free to flavour with the spices above. I sometimes add extra cayenne pepper to give it an extra hot flavour, but follow your tastebuds. 

Za'atar Pita
Original recipe by © Marion Fløysvik
430 g. white flour 
235 ml. tepid water
2 tsp. sugar 
1 tsp. salt 
10 g. fresh yeast
1.5 dl. olive oil 

2 tsp. powdered garlic 
4-5 tsp. za'atar (or sumac)

1.In a small bowl, mix the yeast with the tepid water and sugar. Add the flour, bit by bit, mix, then add salt. Mix and knead for about ten minutes. The dough should be elastic. Form the dough into a ball, cover and let rise for 2 hours. Preheat oven to 200 C.

2.Knead the dough, then divide in eight equal-sized pieced. Roll out each piece into a round pita shape. Place the pitas on baking trays lined with parchment paper. 

3.In a small bowl, mix the olive oil with powdered garlic and za'atar. Place about 2 tsp. in the centre of each pita. Place the baking tray in oven, and let bake for 10-12 minutes.

Granateple- og kyllingcouscous 
Original oppskrift av © Marion Fløysvik


400 g. kylling, i delar
200-250 ml. granateplesirup
300 g. granateplefrø
400 g. ruccolasalat
Safta til 1/2 sitron
2 dl. kvitvin
2 ms. olivenolje
1 ts. koriander
3 ts. za'atar
1 ts. kvitlaukspulver
1 ts. arabisk baharatpulver
2 ts. kajennepepar
300 g. couscous


500 ml. granateplejus
Safta til 1/2 sitron
3 ms. sukker

1.Varm opp olivenolja i ei steikepanne, og steik kyllingen. Ha i kvitvinen og sitronsafta når kyllingen er gjennomsteikt. La kyllingen småkoka i sausen i omlag 5 minutt. Strø så på kryddera. Ta or varmen, og legg til sides. Kok opp saltvatn i ei gryte, ta or varmen, og ha i couscousen. La couscousen svelle i omlag 5 minutt.

2.Granateplesirup: Bland saman sukkeret, sitronsafta og granateplejusen i ein gryte. La det småkoke over låg varme i omlag 1.5 time, eller til sausen er seig og har minka i volum.

3.Bland saman ruccolaen, couscousen, kyllingen og granateplefrøa i ei bolle. Hell granateplesirupen over, og bland godt saman. Du kan gjerna krydra litt ekstra på om du ynskjer det. Eg likar å strø på litt ekstra kajennepepar, men dette er valfritt.

Original oppskrift av © Marion Fløysvik

430 g. mjøl
235 ml. vatn, lunka
2 ts. sukker
1 ts. salt
10 g. fersk gjær
1.5 dl. olivenolje
2 ts. kvitlaukspulver
4-5 ts. za'atar (eller sumac)

1.Bland saman gjæren, sukkeret og vatnet saman i ein liten bolle. Ha i mjølet og bland til ein deig. Ha så i saltet, og kna i omlag 10 minutt. Deigen bør vera elastisk. Dekk til og la deigen heva i omlag 2 timar. Varm opp omnen til 200 C.

2.Kna deigen, og del han i åtte delar. Kjevla kvar del til ein rund pita. Legg på eit bakebrett, og dekk til.

3.Bland saman olivenolja med kvitlaukspulveret og za'ataren i ein liten bolle. Legg omlag 2 ts. av blandinga i midten av kvar pita. Legg bakebrettet i omnen, og steik i 10-12 minutt, eller til pitaene.

8 comment (s):

Anonymous said...

I never thought about making a dinner with pomegranates, but sounds very interesting and quite original. I think this fruit would also fit very well in an "entrée" or basically in a dessert with some "fromage blanc".
Thank you ^^

Siri said...

En av mine favorittfølger til grillet kjøtt er løkbåter med granateplesirup ... Det høres ikke spesielt godt ut, men er fantastisk! Jeg tror det er en tyrkisk oppfinnelse, muligens? Couscoussalaten må prøves.

Marion said...

Hm... de var ein god idé! Eg veit at kjøt med granateplesirup er godt, så kvifor skulle lauk vera annleis? :)

M said...

yeas please, your Israelian friend would love to "test the authentity" of this dish :)
Og fine bilder!

Picknicknitpick said...

Two passions, eh? Eh?


prairiesummers said...

I love the pomegranate pictures. I have to admit that I have not cooked with pomegranate yet.

Marion said...

Thanks! I heartily encourage you to try cooking with pomegranates; it's really good!

Baltic Maid said...

I love pomegranate in hearty dishes. It adds such a nice touch. I love your couscous with pomegranate; I'll have to give this a try sometime. It looks delicious!!!

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