Delving into the Archives: Pomegranate Chicken

summary: going through our photo archives; pomegranate chicken; pomegranate molasses; frozen pomegranate seeds are almost a reasonable substitute for fresh pomegranate – almost…; getting inspiration from TV; in praise of Yasmin Khan’s lovely cookbook, “The Saffron Tales”;

The hero warrior Isfandiar is said to have eaten the seeds of the pomegranate and become invincible – Yasmin Khan, The Saffron Tales
After that [Zartusht] gave to Asfandiar of that feast one grain of a pomegranate. He ate and his body waxed like stone; no wound could be inflicted upon him. – Zartushi-Behram (Eng. translation: E. B. Eastwick, Esq.), Zarthusht-Nameh (“Book of Zarathushtra”), 1277 A.D.

pomegranate molasses

Alas, while pomegranates are available here from time to time, they come from very far away and are rarely as thrilling as we think they should be.

They’re also very very expensive. Even when they look a little worse for the wear.

To get a bit of a pomegranate fix, eons ago, we bought a bottle of pomegranate molasses. I can’t remember what we used it in. All I remember is that we weren’t wild about the flavour. After that first taste, the bottle stood untouched in the cupboard for months before one of us – again, I can’t remember who – decided we should just throw it down the drain and recycle the bottle.

So. What was it that made us decide we had to get another bottle of pomegranate molasses to try it again? Perhaps it was after reading “A Taste of Persia” by Najmieh K. Batmanglij, or “Taste of Persia” by Naomi Duguid, or “Samarkand” by Caroline Eden and Eleanor Ford, or “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” by Samin Nosrat.

That’s right; we cannot stop reading about Persian cuisine. I think it has something to do with the magic of pomegranates.

Or perhaps it was because of a few months ago (in February!! …how can it be May already?!), when T was watching Milk Street on TV and saw what looked to be the best ever way to prepare chicken.

pomegranate chicken

This meal-in-one is our adaptation of a recipe in “The Palestinian Table” by Reem Kassis, which she prepared for us on a recent trip to Galilee. In lieu of seasoning the chicken and potatoes with the Kassis family’s nine-spice blend, we make a simpler mixture from a few select ground spices. And to make a simple but flavorful sauce, we roast a handful of garlic cloves with the chicken and potatoes, then mash the softened cloves directly on the pan before deglazing with water. Dark, syrupy pomegranate molasses has a fruity, floral, tart-sweet taste that complements the fragrant spices and as well as the caramelization that results from roasting.
– Courtney Hill, Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street | Garlicky Spiced Chicken and Potato Traybake with Pomegranate Molasses

Suddenly, we love pomegranate molasses!

We did alter the Milk Street recipe a bit. We didn’t add any potatoes, and instead of adding whole garlic, we put a quartered onion into the pan.

Wow. This chicken was great!

It was particularly great with T’s mother’s recipe for braised red cabbage and raisins, and Reshteh Polow – garnished with pomegranate seeds. Of course, we had to have pomegranate seeds (the supermarket sells them in the freezer section). Not only do they taste lovely, but I love the way they look like jewels.

pomegranated chicken
red cabbage, pomegranate chicken, and reshteh polow (Persian rice and noodles)
reshteh polow (Persian rice and noodles)

After this magnificent repast, we felt invincible! Pomegranates ARE magical.

The Milk Street chicken recipe has led us to our latest read-aloud-before-dinner book: “The Saffron Tales” by Yasmin Khan. It is lovely.

When I was little and living in Iran, I used to sob my heart out each morning as my mother got ready to leave for work. Clinging to her legs, I would beg her not to go, and, to appease me, Mum would explain that she needed to go to work to earn money so she could buy me some pomegranates. I practically pushed her out the door when I heard this. […] I had a knack for vigorousy rubbing the leathered skin of the fruit between my hands, listening to its ruby seeds quietly pop and crunch beneath my fingers, until the pomegranate was soft and pulpy enough for me to tear a hole in one end and squeeze its scarlet juices into my mouth.
When no one is looking, I’ve been known to sneak a teaspoon of homemade pomegranate molasses from my grandmother’s fridge, relishing its pucker-your-lips sharpness.
-Yasmin Khan, The Saffron Tales: Recipes from the Persian Kitchen, Introduction, p.9, A taste of Iran, p.13

The ARZ pomegranate molasses, that is usually readily available at our supermarket, is from Lebanon. The ingredients are “pomegranate molasses, sugar syrup”.

As soon as the restrictions lift, we’ll take a trip up to Super Tehran supermarket to see what kind(s) of pomegranate molasses they have. I’d love to find one that has no sugar!

Pomegranate Molasses

Pomegranate Molasses

      We all know what it’s like to buy an unfamiliar ingredient for one recipe and then be stuck with ideas for how to use it again. The said ingredient usually finds itself relegated to the back of your kitchen cupboard, gathering dust until it quietly passes its sell by date and you can justifiably throw it out without feeling guilty. Or is that just me?
      Well, fear not, if you invest in a bottle of pomegranate molasses you’ll never face such woes.
– Yasmin Khan, Yasmin Khan Stories | 10 Things to do with Pomegranate Molasses, 22 November 2014
Pomegranate molasses is thick, sticky syrup made from cooked-down, fresh pomegranate juice. […] As the sweetness of each batch of pomegranates will differ, it is rare to find two bottles that are the exactly same, and brands vary massively considerably too, so it’s worth shopping around to find the one that tickles your particular taste buds. […] As a rule of thumb, I find Turkish varieties almost always have added sugar, which makes them quite sweet, while Arabic brands tend to be lighter in consistency
– Yasmin Khan, The Saffron Tales | The Persian Store Cupboard, p.25 (ISBN: 1408868733 (ISBN13: 9781408868737),Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2016)

We’re just a little bit over half-way through, and already have several recipes bookmarked. The other night, when we had had had the altered Milk Street chicken again, we read about mixing yoghurt with pomegranate seeds and mint. Too bad! One day too late. And the mint that has just emerged in our garden is stunningly beautiful right now. Next time….

(Remind me to rave about how good this chicken is when cooked on the barbecue!)


Pomegranate Molasses

The photos of the pomegranate molasses were taken a couple of days ago, which is why the bottle is only about a quarter full….

update on unsweetened pomegranate juice: we managed to find some unsweetened pomegranate juice at one of the nearby health food stores. It wasn’t cheap…. It also tasted vegetal rather than fruity – not like pomegranates at all! It was quite disappointing. (After the fact, we looked at online reviews to see that we are not alone in thinking that brand of juice tastes pretty much like beets. :stomp: )

This entry was posted in cookbooks, etc., food & drink on by .

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