KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 22 — As we bid goodbye to the haze, it’s the monsoon season that will bring all manner of ailments, from coughs to colds.
Everyone is looking for an elixir to fight this lousy feeling of being continuously ill... and the answer may be the pomegranate. Native to Persia, the antioxidant-rich pomegranate is one of the oldest known fruits in the world. The ancient Greeks called the pomegranate “the fruit of the dead” and revered it a symbol of health, fertility and eternal life.
The pomegranate is most famously featured in the myth of Persephone, daughter of the harvest goddess Demeter. Beautiful Persephone was kidnapped by Hades, god of the underworld, and spirited away to his realm to be his wife. The earth grew barren as Demeter grieved for her loss, thus causing Zeus to command Hades to return Persephone.
Unfortunately, Persephone consumed six pomegranate seeds during her capture and was forced to live in the underworld for six months each year. Hence ancient Greeks explained why the earth is not fertile for the half of the year (during which Demeter pines for her daughter). If you believe them, the pomegranate is the reason why we have seasons (though, of course, not in Malaysia, warm and fertile all year round).
Far from being the fruit of the dead, pomegranates may well bring back life to our haze-struck bodies. A nutrient dense food source, pomegranates contain high levels of flavonoids and polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants that lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, improve immunity, and protects against heart disease and cancer. Pomegranates may even help with depression, something we may be in danger of, what with the lack of sunlight and fresh air these days.
Given how under the weather we all feel, the best way to enjoy the pomegranate is with the minimum of fuss and work. A tasty and refreshing salad is simple to make but guaranteed to bring back some colour to your cheeks – perhaps even the rouge-like flush of a pomegranate.
POMEGRANATE SALAD WITH GREEN APPLE, CUCUMBER AND MINT
Look for the ripest pomegranates to ensure you get plump, juicy seeds (which are actually called “arils”). These are the ones whose skins are starting to crack open, but haven’t completely burst apart.
To de-seed the pomegranate, cut them in half. Using a big spoon or ladle to hit the pomegranate half and loosen the arils. Another method is to use your fingers to pry the arils from the white membrane. Do this over a large bowl or wide surface as the loose pomegranate arils can stain.
Aside from the scarlet orbs of pomegranate seeds, this is a very green salad thanks to the green apple, cucumber, mint and parsley. Sounds too “green”, maybe? The addition of lightly pickled red onion, sweet honey and aromatic tahini (sesame seed paste typically used in North African and Middle Eastern cuisine) layers on complex flavours to this otherwise bland though refreshing dish.
Those who don’t mind some pungency may consider incorporating some of the sliced red onion raw, without marinating them in lemon juice. Alternatively those who don’t mind cooking can sauté a portion of the red onions too.
Combining all three – sharp raw red onion, tart pickled red onion, and sweet caramelised red onion – creates quite a flavour bomb. (Stick to just pickling them in lemon juice if you’re lazy like me though. It’s pretty awesome already.)
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 red onion, sliced
1 green apple, sliced
1 cucumber (one half cut into thin round slices, the other half julienned into strips)
1 pomegranate, seeds only
1 bunch mint leaves
½ bunch parsley, torn coarsely
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon honey
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Toasted almond flakes for garnishing
Firstly, grate the skin of the lemon for its zest and set aside. Squeeze the juice from the lemon and set aside separately. Use the remaining cut lemon halves to pickle the sliced red onion in its juicy pulp for about 10 minutes. This will cut the sharpness of the red onion.
Add the red onion, green apple, cucumber, pomegranate seeds, mint leaves and torn parsley into a mixing bowl. Mix the lemon juice, tahini and honey together to make the dressing. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients and toss to combine.
Garnish with toasted almond flakes and lemon zest. Serve immediately.
Yield: Enough for two persons.