Tag Archives: Pomegranate Molasses

Spring In Snackistan ~ Spinach, Rhubarb and Pomegranate.

Japonica or Japanese quinceWelcome to Spring and Happy Nowrooz.

Today isn’t just the Spring Equinox it’s Persian New Year too. Iranians the world over will be celebrating, whilst back here the  Japonica up the street, on Jen the Potter‘s wall, is looking spectacular – a sign that winter’s been and gone.  I decided to mark the occasion by cooking a recipe from my very latest acquisition, Sally Butcher’s Snackistan, using some of the huge haul of rhubarb I received from a friend with a glut. Hoorah for gluts.

I have to admit that I hadn’t even heard of Nowrooz until last week when I visited Persepolis, Sally’s amazing shop, which she describes as a little bit of “Persia in Peckham”.  I walked through the door to find her amidst a new delivery from Iran, bowls of lush wheat grass and a washing tub of goldfish. The shop was hotting up for New Year (music and all ), which just happens to be Jamshid, Sally’s Iranian husband’s birthday too. Both the wheatgrass and the fish are meant to represent the new life and prosperity that everyone hopes for in the months ahead.

I sipped fragrant cardamom tea from the samovar, and managed to devour an entire plate of traditional pastries too, before setting off around the shop. The place is packed with all those fabulous Middle Eastern treats such as sumac, dried barberries and plums,  lurid-green nibbed pistachios, Turkish delight and pomegranates. The shopping experience is further enhanced by Mrs Shopkeeper’s labels around the shelves, along with her advice and incredible insight into the  life and food of Persia.

My Peckham pilgrimage was a wonderful one (just a 20 minute bus ride from Victoria on the 436 or 36) and I left with a great stash of goodies to cook with. Better still, when I dive into my copy of Snackistan (or the equally inspiring Veggiestan) I can now picture Sally writing in her chaotic office at the back of the shop and celebrate the idea that at least one person in this world ( and a fabulously creative one at that) has a messier desk than I do.

Spinach with Rhubarb, Chickpeas and Pomegranate
Esfanj va Rivas

“Snack lunch for 1 hungry shopkeeper” – it fed 2 of us at suppertime with some rice.

This recipe is taken from Snackistan- Sally gives you plenty of extra info’ in her inimitable, witty style but you’ll need to buy the book for that (you won’t regret it). Her inspiration for this was a dish that contains chicken too, so do feel free to experiment. I’d love this alongside lamb or in a very non-PC (when it comes to Persian New Year) way with some juicy belly pork.DSC_9501_2

2-3 spring onions
Sunflower oil for frying
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 garlic clove, chopped
A big handful of both mint and parsley, chopped
1 glass of water
1/2 of a 400g can of chickpeas, drained
2-3 sticks of rhubarb
1 tsp sugar
1/2 a bunch (I used 2 large handfuls) spinach, washed and roughly shredded
Juice 1/2 a lemon
1 tbsp Pomegranate molasses
Salt, black pepper (and sugar too, if necessary)
Fresh pomegranate to garnish

Fry the onions in a splash of oil and then, once soft, you can add the turmeric and garlic, followed by the herbs. After 5 minutes, stirring well, add the water and bring up to the boil.
Throw in the chickpeas, rhubarb and sugar and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the spinach, lemon juice and pomegranate molasses and cook until the spinach has just wilted.
Season well and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

I do have a bit of a rhubarb fixation as you may well have noticed on my blog. If you are up for some more rhubarb trivia you could go to my post on the Borough Market Blog or consult either/both of these fabulous little books  The Great Book of Rhubarb by Elaine Lemm or Rhubarbaria by Mary Prior.

Roasted Figs with Pomegranate Molasses

Sacha's fresh figsToday’s recipe comes from the magical Mr Ottolenghi via a fabulous blog called Milli’s kitchen. The fruit fairy (our lovely neighbour who drops in random boxes of fruit on a Sunday morning – I know I’m blessed!) had left me a beautiful tray of figs this weekend and I immediately thought of Milli’s post. Blogging has transformed the way that people pass on recipes, I’m still amazed by everyone’s generosity (as long as they credit the original source). When I first started cooking professionally I worked for an Italian family on their very chi-chi yacht and was sent to learn a few family favorites from their home cook. It was like extracting blood from a stone, the old bag was not going to part with any of her crowd-pleasers (she probably even sabotaged the recipes she gave me) and I think this was often the way in the past. I know everyone loves to be nostalgic about recipes being handed down through the generations. I have to say it depends on your heritage; I’d rather be cooking Mr Ottolenghi’s fantastical figs than my mother’s (sorry Mum) rather hefty cheese and potato pie.

Roasted Figs with Pomegranate Molasses and Orange Zest

I have been terribly lazy today, quite literally lifting this recipe from Milli’s blog, it did seem a bit of a waste of time to re-type the whole thing.  Sometimes the “Chinese Whisper” effect can enhance a dish, with each cook adding or adjusting but this is SO delicious that I wanted to leave it as is. Oh, and that makes me think of my joke of the moment (not mine at all, some fab comic’s at The Edinburgh Festival) “There’s a rumour that Cadbury’s are developing a new Oriental chocolate bar…….could be a Chinese Wispa” boom, boom! Well, it appealed to my very childish sense of humour.

Figs with Pomegranate molasses

3 tbsp of pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp of lemon juice
3 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
4 thyme sprigs
skin of 1 orange, in strips
8 fresh figs, cut lengthways
100g mascarpone
100g yogurt
icing sugar
pinch of salt

Put together in a large mixing bowl the pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, 2 thyme sprigs, 1 tablespoon of water, the orange skin strips and a pinch of salt. Mix well to dissolve the sugar and then stir in the figs. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together in a small bowl the mascarpone, yoghurt and icing sugar until smooth. Keep chilled.
Remove the figs from the bowl (keeping the marinade) and arrange them snugly inside a small baking tray, roughly 20x20cm, the cut side facing up. Sprinkle the figs with the remaining sugar and put under a hot grill, clearing about 15cm from the grill. Grill for 10 minutes, or until the sugar has caramelised and the figs softened.
Meanwhile, pour the marinating liquids into a small saucepan, bring to the boil and then simmer for 2-4 minutes or until the sauce is reduced by half and has a consistency of runny honey.
Transfer the hot figs to serving plates and spoon over any leftover syrup from the baking tray, then drizzle over the sauce reduction and sprinkle with picked thyme leaves. Place a spoonful of the yoghurt cream on the side or on the figs and sprinkle over the remaining orange zest. Serve at once.

And, before you groan about hard-to-track-down ingredients I’ll give you plenty more ideas for using the pomegranate molasses in the next few weeks (and it’s readily available in what Imi always refers to as the “orange supermarket” yes the one with the S)

Just one more thing….food blogs aren’t only about sharing recipes. I came across Milli’s blog after seeing her Pug cake yes, you read it right and finished up, by way of admiring an avocado tree on another post, finding out about her parent’s amazing B&B near Malaga. Now I’m going to tell you more, oh yes so much more, about Rancho del Ingles in another post. In fact I would LOVE to run some cooking courses there, so watch this space. For now I’ll leave you with a few pictures; just a little taster.