I discovered pomegranate molasses by accident. I had treated myself to a rare jaunt up to London for a tour of the Wallace Collection and lunch at the Lebanese cafe Comptoir Libanais where I had my first taste of Baba Ghanoush. On their deli shelves were Middle Eastern brands of orange blossom water, rose water and pomegranate molasses. They clinked merrily in my bag on the way home and soon got used up.
I’m not ashamed to be addicted. I confess to feeling a flutter of panic when the bottles are down to their last quarter. Recently I had a go at making my own pomegranate molasses, following an online recipe of pure pomegranate juice with a little sugar and lemon juice. The sugar made it too jammy for my taste. Thanks to a friend I’ve got a couple of bought bottles to tide me over and afterwards I’ll try simmering down just the juice to see if that gives a more authentic flavour.
As for why it’s become so necessary, I’ve found that pomegranate molasses adds a pleasing, rounded sharpness to salad dressings, less abrasive than balsamic vinegar. It’s traditionally used to jazz up Baba Ghanoush and as a marinade for meat and is great with veggie sausages and tofu.
Baba Ghanoush – recipes vary, this is my favourite so far
2 aubergines, blackened under the grill or over flames (takes a while) – flesh removed and excess liquid squeezed out.
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 tablespoons tahini
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt to taste
pomegranate seeds and chopped pistachios or chopped fresh mint to decorate
Blitz in a blender or mash together with a fork, taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with pitta bread.
Pomegranate molasses dressing for quinoa & vegetable summer salad.
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 stick lemongrass, finely chopped
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
juice and zest of a lime
salt and pepper
a little honey or agave syrup if sweetness is needed
Whisk together, taste and make any adjustments.
Cook quinoa and while still warm, mix in ½ of the dressing. Chop fresh beetroot, carrot, courgette, curly kale, spinach or watercress, peas, fresh herbs, and add to the warm quinoa. Roasted squash (especially with cumin & cinnamon) is a nice addition. Sprinkle over some seeds – pumpkin and sunflower work well. Pour over the rest of the dressing, stir and serve.
Here I am again … with another quinoa recipe. Despite what some of you might think, I do have other ingredients in my kitchen and not just quinoa but I was trying to come up with a different version of the spinach and quinoa bake. So, as soon as I felt that ray of inspiration coming I put my Marimekko apron and armed with the digital camera in one hand and the knife on the other I ‘invented’ the following recipe with a cabbage cousin (cabbage and broccoli are both from the Brassicaceae family). As usual, feel free to replace some of the ingredients, for example change the broccoli by another vegetable or the smoked salmon by another fish or any other source of protein (cheese is the first one that comes to my mind … mmhhh pieces of halloumi or feta!). As I learnt from my mother: you have to think about the colours when choosing your ingredients … the eyes are the first ones ‘tasting’ the food!
Broccoli and quinoa bake
120 g smoked salmon trimmings
1 small broccoli head
1 tbsp capers
80 g or ½ cup quinoa
½ fresh chilli
Wash and drain the quinoa, place it in the pan with 1 1/3 cup of water, bring to the boil and then lower the heat and cook for about 15 minutes until all the water is absorbed. In the meantime, cut the broccoli into small florets, place in a small pan, add boiling water and cook at a medium heat for about 3 minutes, drain the little green trees. Finely chop half of a fresh chilli (or a whole one if you like to spice things up!). Mix all the ingredients, add salt and pepper to taste. Place in a loaf tin and bake for approximately 40 minutes at 180 ºC / Gas 4. Eat hot or cold. Serves 2 small stomachs like mine or maybe just one if you like big portions (like my friend Elena does!)
Together with a couple of colleagues we have decided to share our food (or cooking experiments), once a week one cook for the 3 of us and brings the meal to work to have lunch together. Today was my turn, and I thought I would use the occasion to introduce a new ingredient to them: quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa). It was not a random choice, quinoa is produced in the Andes, I am Peruvian-Belgian and the mountains are very special to me. I made a delicious (yes, I have to admit it!) and very nutritious ‘bake’ with quinoa and spinach (Spinacia oleracea). See the recipe below! Did you know that those two ingredients are botanically related ? Both plants are from the Amaranthaceae family. Although quinoa leaves are edible you might only find the seeds in some supermarkets and health food shops in the UK, and those seeds come mainly from Bolivia and Peru. What is quite surprising for me is that when I was in Peru people in the coast or amazonian region would not know and eat quinoa (thought to be food for the poor?) and now that there is a whole wave of ‘Peruvian nouvelle cuisine’ more Peruvians are starting to appreciate quinoa in its different varieties (white, golden, red), forms (grain, flour, flaked, popped) and recipes (sweet or savoury). I have made with good success: chocolate cake with quinoa (ideal for coeliacs), quinoa madeleines, quinotto (like risotto but with quinoa instead of rice), quinua and courgette bake … the possibilities are endless! I forgot to take a picture of my bake, but here is the recipe …
Quinoa and spinach bake (recipe for 3-4 people)
1 cup quinoa
1 1/4 cup water
1 onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
450 g spinach
200 g feta cheese, chopped
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg, grated
1 tsp baking powder
Salt & pepper
I first tried the quinoa and spinach bake from a friend who made it for a picnic (you can eat it hot, warm or cold). I looked for the recipe on the web and then modified it to my taste. Wash, drain and cook a cup of quinoa. Put in the pan enough water to cover the grains and a bit more, put the lid on, turn the heat down as soon as it boils and turn the heat off when most of the water has been used up (the rest of it will be absorbed by the quinoa or evaporate). Meanwhile, chop 1 onion (I don’t mind if white or red) and 2-3 garlic cloves (depending how much you like garlic), gently fry them until they become nicely caramelised. Add 450 g of spinach (I’ve used packed baby spinach, if using a fresh bunch wash and chop it first), cook for a few minutes, turn off the heat and add the cooked quinoa, about 200 g feta or salad cheese chopped, 1 tsp cinnamon powder, 1 tsp cumin powder, ½ tsp grated nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste, 3 beaten eggs, 1 tsp baking powder. Place the mixture in a cake tin or similar and put in the oven at 180⁰C/Gas 4/350⁰F for 40 minutes or until set.
Optional: add some grated parmesan to the mixture, put some strips of feta or salad cheese on top of the mixture before baking it.