Happy Chocolate Day!
We could rehash the tragic story of Christian Saint Valentine, or the more ancient Roman holidays of Juno Fructifier the goddess of marriage, and Lupercalia, which celebrated Faunus the god of fertility – but we won’t.
We could discuss chocolate (one of our favourite topics), but that’s too overdone, as most people usually associate Valentine’s Day with chocolate.
We’d rather focus on two fruits that don’t often get much airplay because they’re neither as ubiquitous as apples and oranges, nor as “exotic” as rambutan and mangosteen.
Did you know that both figs and pomegranates were associated with love in ancient Middle Eastern cultures?
Figs are at the peak of their season in Australia at the moment, but are usually available from December through May. Pomegranates are nearing the end of their season. They’re available November through March.
Look for plump, richly coloured fruit. They should be soft, but without any splits in their skin. They can be stored in the fridge for one to two days, but they deteriorate quickly, so try to consume them the same day.
To prepare, wash them quickly, trim the stems, slice, and enjoy. If you prefer, you can peel figs, but it’s not essential as their skin is very thin and edible.
1. Combine quartered figs with roquette, shaved parmesan, and small strips of prosciutto. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
2. Halve figs and smear with a little goat’s cheese. Wrap each half in a thin strip of ham or pancetta, securing with toothpicks.
3. Halve figs and brush with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with a little brown sugar then grill until just golden. Serve with mascarpone.
Look for bright red fruit. Their skin should feel smooth, and they should feel relatively heavy for their size. You can store them at room temperature for up to one week or in the fridge up to two weeks.
To prepare, cut the pomegranate in half and use a small spoon to scoop out the seeds, taking care to avoid the bitter white pith. If you want the juice, transfer the seeds to a muslin-lined sieve letting the juice trickle out, pressing seeds occasionally.
1. Soak couscous in boiling water and lemon juice until fluffy. Stir through chopped dried apricots, raisins, toasted pine nuts, chopped coriander and mint leaves, and pomegranate seeds. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Combine cubed feta, pine nuts, and pomegranate seeds and serve on lettuce, spinach, or roquette. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice.
3. Cut seedless watermelon into cubes. Top with a dollop of yoghurt, pomegranate seeds, and chopped pistachios.
For example, you can combine these two undervalued fruits in a single hors d’oeuvre. Cover fig halves in bruléed chevre, top with walnut or pecan halves and pomegranate seeds. Each refreshing bite is sweet, nutty, and stimulating – perfectly Valentine’s!