P is for pomegranates

pomegranatesWhile researching this post, I learned that pomegranates have a very long history and have often appeared in art, literature and mythology, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, HS guest blogger and freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

I came across the painting Prosperine, painted by the pre-Raphaelite Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1874. I’d seen the painting before but had forgotten that the Roman goddess is holding a pomegranate. According to myth, she was kidnapped by Pluto, the god of the underworld and could only return to earth if she had not consumed any underworld food! Unfortunately, she had eaten six seeds from the pomegranate and was condemned to spend six months of the year in Hades. Thus, the pomegranate in the Rossetti’s painting is a symbol of captivity.

This is a happy coincidence, for Rossetti’s Prosperine is in Tate Britain and we’re off there this afternoon, as part of NYE outing to see the Edward Burne-Jones (another pre-Raphaelite) exhibition. So I’ll take another look at that famous pomegranate.

The pomegranate fruit should be a symbol of health, rather than captivity, because the hundreds of tiny seeds (known of arils) that it contains are packed with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory phytochemicals called punicalagins. They also contain a conjugated linolenic acid (CLAs) called punicic acid. Research on cells, lab animals and humans suggest that the punicalagins may help prevent or manage a whole range of health problems, including cancer, arthritis, joint pain heart disease, high blood pressure, while CLAs have been shown to help with obesity, high blood pressure and insulin resistance.

You can buy a whole pomegranate for about a pound at the greengrocer – much cheaper than the pre-packaged seeds. Releasing the seeds can be messy though – I scored the fruit around the centre and twisted it into two halves and then just break the seeds out from the clumps inside into a bowl, and then picked out the bits of pith. Then there’s 100% pomegranate juice which is more expensive than other fruit juices, but is great to add to plain water with a slice of lemon as a healthy hydrating drink or to top up a home-made juice.

Winter pomegranate juice

Serves one

This combines pomegranate with cranberries, another winter fruit. Two pomegranates provide about 100ml of juice. The spinach adds a touch of green, without detracting from the delicious taste of this juice.

One box of cranberries

Two pomegranates, seeded
8 oranges, peeled

100g spinach

One inch piece of root ginger, peeled

Juice all ingredients and drink immediately.

Super pomegranate salad

Baby kale leaves

Olives

Cubed feta

Seeds

Walnuts

Avocado

Pomegranate seeds

 

Pomegranate fruit salad

Four to six oranges/satsumas/clementines, peeled and segmented

One mango, peeled and cubed

50g pomegranate seeds

Mint leaves, chopped, to decorate

Cinammon, to sprinkle
Mix the oranges/citrus fruit with the mango.  Scatter with the pomegranate seeds, decorate with the mint leaves and finish with a sprinkle of cinammon.

Next time. P is for Peanut Butter

 

P is for Purple (and Blue)

Purple grapesBlack grapes are a rich source of anthocyanins, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, HS guest blogger, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

Of all the superfood colours, purple is perhaps the best known. The deep colour of black grapes, purple cabbage, blackcurrant, blueberries, pomegranate and aubergine is attributable to a group of phytochemicals called anthocyanins. Many studies link a high intake of anthocyanins to improved cardiovascular health and prevention of cancer and dementia.

You may remember a recent BBC documentary that looked at the contribution of large amounts of purple sweet potato to the longevity and low dementia rates among the people of Okinawa. If you’re interested, read more about the work of Professor Craig Wilcox and his brother Dr Bradley Wilcox here. I went looking for purple sweet potato and came back with purple carrots (see below)! Why not also try purple versions potato chips, tortilla chips, and ordinary potatoes, if you can find them?
Purple power juice

In this juice, the sweetness of the grapes is perfectly balanced by the astringency of the pomegranate and cranberries, while the lemon and ginger add a seasonal touch.
Serves one

200g black grapes
200ml pure pomegranate juice
100g fresh cranberries
One lemon, halved
One inch peeled ginger
Juice all ingredients and top up your glass with the pomegranate juice.

Braised red cabbage

We had our Christmas dinner on 31 December last year and we always use this recipe for the red cabbage to go alongside the nut roast.

Serves four (leftovers heat up well the following day)

One small red cabbage, finely shredded
One large (or two small) Bramley apples, chopped
Two red onions, chopped
Handful of dried cranberries
One tsp cinnamon
Fresh grated nutmeg
1tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp cider

Preheat oven to 150℃. Mix everything in a big casserole dish, put on the lid and cook slowly for two to two and a half hours.

Purple carrot salad

I make up a snack mix that currently consists of cranberries, goji berries, almonds, soy-coated sunflower seeds (sometimes it also contains pumpkin seeds and/or wasabi peanuts). The idea is to get a nutritious sweet/savoury mixture with lots of crunchy texture. It works well in a salad with any ingredients and here I try it out with purple carrots.
Serves one

Two purple carrots, grated
Cranberry, nut and seed mix
Mix the carrots and snack mix and dress with flaxseed oil and cider vinegar. Finish with a squeeze of lemon and some fresh chopped herbs.

I will be giving the ‘alphabet’ a rest in 2018 and carrying out some experiments on ingredients with a ‘healthy’ reputation. Experiment 1 will be on cider vinegar. Watch this space!