Akeel (Yoghurt and Pomegranate Dip)
I have always admired Maggie Beer (and I mean always), long before she appeared on National TV on the Cook and the Chef. My admiration was based on how she creates ways to use ingredients she has at hand. Pheasant, quince, grapes (verjuice), are just a few that readily come to mind.
So I was not going to be daunted by the number of pomegranates I had. If I was ever going to live up to my expectation of self, I was going to be able to use all those bloody pomegranates.
The very lovely Steve and Alan were coming to dinner the other night and I decided it would be a pomegranate night. I have a massive cookbook collection, with the emphasis on middle eastern and mediterranean food. Pomegranates are highly valued in those cuisines so, surely, I would find inspiration for a pomegranate theme.
First course was to be Akeel. I had been wanting to make it for ages and have been waiting for the pomegranate season (little did I know it would be so fertile) to make it. The inspiration comes from the delightful Canadian book Flatbreads and Flavours – A Baker’s Atlas by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. How I came upon this book is a story in itself.
We were tidying up (and throwing out) and trying to work out what should live where when I came across an old newspaper clipping Maus had kept. It was a review of Flatbreads and Flavours from a 1995 newspaper. I gave it a quick read and thought the recipes sounded quite good. I asked her about the article and she said that she had saved it because she thought I would be interested. What a darling. So I went to Amazon Books and, as luck would have it, it was still in print. And what a book it is. For all the bakers out there, I highly recommend it.
Anyway, Jeffrey Alford first experienced this dish as a guest in an old house in Yemen. Even if you are paying $2.00 a pomegranate, this dish is worth it. The lovely seeds give an unexpected sweet acidy burst as you bite into them.
BTW: If you are in Perth, don’t buy one. Please … just ask.
- 2 cups of plain yoghurt (strained for at least 6 hours)
- 1 pomegranate (save a few seeds for garnish)
- 2 spring onions (both the white and the green parts)
- ¼ cup of coriander (if you don’t like coriander as I know my sister Juanita doesn’t, just substitute mint)
- 2 tbs mint and a bit extra for garnish
Mix all the ingredients together, add salt to taste and garnish with a few extra pomegranate seeds and mint.
Serve with Lebanese bread, split horizontally and baked in a slow oven (120°C) for 5-8 minutes), hommus and black olives.
PS: For the recipe for the photo above, check out The Great Pomegranate Extravagranza Part III – to be published