Saturday, 27 September 2014

Pomegranate And Saffron Labneh

If you buy a pomegranate,
buy one whose ripeness
has caused it to be cleft open
with a seed-revealing smile.
Its laughter is a blessing,
for through its wide-open mouth
it shows its heart,
like a pearl in the jewel box of spirit.
A laughing pomegranate
brings the whole garden to life.
Whether you are stone or marble,
you will become a jewel
when you reach a human being of heart.

As I told you last week, I was introduced to 13th century Persian poet and Sufi mystic, Rumi in Elif Shafak's 'Forty Rules of Love'. Am still in the early pages of the book but I am already getting entranced by his words that keep playing in my mind.
So, when I saw a whole mound of pomegranates at the fruit stall and then these words by Rumi, this post had to be next!
Tis the season of pomegranates right now and it is on my list of fruits that are best eaten alone. I enjoy its many contrasts. It is sweet and tangy at the same time just as it is juicy and crunchy at the same time. And then there's it's colour, that beautiful, luscious, sensual red that stains and changes all it comes in contact with, much like the 'human being of heart' that Rumi writes about.
It deserves a dessert that celebrates its unique personality. I found this beautiful dessert that paired the pomegranate with labneh on a fantastic blog by an ex-chef from Sydney, 'He Needs Food'. Drop by for a visit for gorgeous recipes and even more gorgeous photography.
Labneh is a yoghurt cheese, popular in the Middle East and is essentially yoghurt drained of its whey. Here, it is flavoured with saffron, cinnamon, cardamom and orange zest and then layered with pomegranate arils and juice. The original recipe has orange blossom water which I unfortunately could not find anywhere out here. A pity because that would have accentuated the Middle eastern character of this dessert.
And what a beautiful dessert this is. It will remind Indians of 'shrikhand' and that is what it essentially is. The labneh is light and refreshing on the palate without being cloyingly sweet. You then have the pomegranate that provides a textural and visual contrast that is most welcome. I do wish I had the orange blossom water. It would have mellowed the citrus tone of this dessert which was quite assertive because of the orange zest used.
This dessert is perfect to cleanse and cool the palate after a meal that has been heavy on spices. It is perfect for the all-vegetarian diktat that is now in place at home because of Navratri. And most importantly, it is perfect for the weather we are experiencing right now where the monsoons have retreated but winter is still some time away!

Pomegranate And Saffron Labneh

Serves 3-4 Recipe source: He Needs Food

  • 500 gms. thick or Greek style yoghurt
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • zest of one orange or 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • good pinch of saffron
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 pomegranate
  • chopped pistachios, for garnish
  • Line a large sieve with a double layer of kitchen paper or muslin cloth. Place over a bowl and pour in the yoghurt. Refrigerate for as long as possible, at least 5-6 hours, preferably overnight until all the whey has drained off.
  • Heat the milk and crumble the saffron strands into the hot milk. Leave to infuse for 8-10 minutes, crushing the strands in the milk with the back of a spoon or your fingers.
  • Put the strained yoghurt (labneh) into a bowl and add the sugar, saffron milk, orange zest and ground spices. Mix well and set aside.
  • To serve, scatter some pomegranate arils (be generous) into the bottom of a clear glass, dollop some labneh into it, scatter more arils and a teaspoon of pomegranate juice, add another dollop of labneh, juice and arils and garnish with chopped pistachios.

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