The pomegranate has been a symbol of opulent eating around the Mediterranean for thousands of years. A tradition going back to the Greek occupation of Anatolia is throwing a pomegranate into the doorway of your house on New Year’s Eve to ensure abundance for the following year.
Turkey is the third-biggest pomegranate producer in the world, (after Iran and India). Turks call it a ‘superfruit‘, believing it to contain an antioxidant that lowers cholesterol.
Every Turkish supermarket sells special-purpose pomegranate seeders and pomegranate juicers, but if you can’t find these devices near you, don’t despair. Cut the pomegranate in half, horizontally. Put one half face down over a bowl and tap gently all over the back. The seeds should pop out. Then you can crush them to make juice or use them to decorate dishes, savoury or sweet.
Turkish supermarkets also sell pomegranate molasses. To make your own:
Simmer the pomegranate juice in a heavy-based saucepan until it has reduced to a quarter its original volume. There’s no need to add sugar.
You can use it in any dish where you might use balsamic vinegar or lemon. In my restaurant, I serve my bread with a saucer containing two tablespoons of olive oil and a teaspoon of pomegranate molasses. I also like to baste lamb in it, because it caramelises the exterior.
When I arrived in Sydney, I was delighted to learn that the Australian term for English people is pommie, supposedly because their faces quickly go the colour of my favourite fruit under the hot Australian sun.
The next most popular fruit in Turkey is the fig, which is at its best in autumn. It was apparently the first crop to be cultivated in the world—in southeastern Anatolia, of course, about 10,000 years ago. We use unripened figs in jams, fresh figs in salads, and dried figs in deserts and dolma stuffings.
Turkey supplies 80 per cent of the world’s dried fruits, particularly apricots, dates and raisins. The Ottoman sultans embraced the Persian passion for combining dried fruits with stewed or roasted meats, as you’ll see in our Dinner chapter.
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