The jewel of the aisle: Skye Gyngell cooks with pomegranates

Fresh, exciting fruit is at a premium during winter, so pomegranates are just the thing to pick up off the shelf and put some colour in your day, says Skye Gyngell

There is not a great deal of fruit around at this time of year, but what little there is, is truly beautiful in both appearance and flavour – and pomegranates are among my favourites. Spectacular in colour, like ruby jewels, their fleshy seeds pop in the mouth once chewed, imparting their delicious juice, and can be used in all sorts of things, from salads to ice-creams.

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, petershamnurseries.com

Pomegranate with blood oranges and dates

Though it's merely fruit sliced and served without adornment, this is nevertheless a lovely combination. The sticky, indulgent flavour of the dates mixed with a little juice from the blood oranges creates a delightful caramel-y sauce. If possible, the dates should be Medjool.

Serves 6

6 blood oranges
6 dates
The seeds of 1 pomegranate

Slice off the top and bottom of each blood orange with a small, sharp knife, then lay them on their side and run your knife down to remove the rest of the skin. It is important that as much pith as possible is removed. Now slice each orange into eighth-of-an-inch-thick pinwheels. Arrange the slices on a plate.

Remove the stones from the dates and slice into quarters lengthwise.

Now tap the pomegranate gently all over with a rolling pin to loosen the seeds then slice in half and shake out all the seeds. Use this method for each of these recipes. Scatter the seeds over the blood oranges, lay the dates alongside. Serve.

Pomegranate ice-cream

I love ice-cream all year round, not just during summer. I have made the custard base here simply with milk, rather than a combination of milk and cream; the end result is lighter, cleaner and more refreshing – almost Middle Eastern in flavour.

For the custard base

1 litre/1¾ pints whole milk
1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthwise
120g/4oz caster sugar
6 egg yolks
3 tsp rose water
The seeds of 1 pomegranate

Pour the milk into a saucepan, add the vanilla pod and place over a medium heat. Bring the milk to a simmer then turn off the heat and allow the vanilla flavour to infuse the milk for 20 minutes.

In a separate bowl, pour in the sugar and egg yolks and whisk together until pale. Now remove the vanilla pod from the milk and pour over the eggs. Pour into a clean pan and place over the lowest heat possible. Stir using a wooden spoon in a figure-of-eight movement until the custard thickens enough to leave a ribbon trail on the back of the spoon – be patient: this can take up to 10 minutes.

As soon as the custard has thickened, remove from the heat and pour through a colander into a clean bowl. Once this base has cooled to room temperature, pour into an ice-cream maker and churn following the manufacturer's instruction.

When the ice-cream has just set, remove from the machine and stir in the pomegranate and rose water. Place in the freezer until you are ready to use. It is best to eat this ice-cream on the day of making.

If you don't have an ice-cream maker, pour the mixture into a Tupperware box and place directly into the freezer, stirring every 20 minutes or so until the ice-cream has set. The stirring is important as it helps to disperse the ice particles and makes the ice-cream smooth.

Salad of Persian feta, pomegranate, roasted onions and pomegranate molasses

It is not essential to use this light, slightly more delicate feta, but it does make this salad slightly more silken in flavour. If you find it difficult to buy, look for a good-quality Greek feta.

Serves 4

1 red onion, peeled and sliced into pinwheels
1 tsp pomegranate molasses
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
A little sea salt
200g/7oz feta cheese
A handful of salad leaves – small-leafed spinach is nice
1 dried red chilli, crumbled
The seeds of 1 pomegranate

For the dressing

3 tsp pomegranate molasses
1 tsp soft brown sugar
The juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
150ml/5fl oz extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4.

Place the onion in a bowl and add the molasses, sugar, oil and salt. Toss together using your hands. Pour on to a roasting tray and place on the middle shelf of the oven. Roast, turning once or twice, until the onions are soft and glossy – this should take about half an hour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Now make the dressing. Place the molasses, brown sugar and lemon juice into a bowl, add a pinch of salt and a little freshly ground black pepper. Whisk in the olive oil and set aside.

Slice the feta into generous-sized chunks and place in a bowl with the salad leaves, crumbled dried chilli and cooked onions.

Add half the dressing and toss gently, arrange on individual plates or one large one, scatter over the pomegranate seeds, drizzle over the rest of the dressing and serve.

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