This recipe for an Indian Pomegranate Salad comes through Ammini Ramachandran. She is the author of Greens, Grains and Coconuts, a comprehensive cookbook on vegetarian recipes of Kerala. She is also very knowledgeable about food, culture and culinary traditions of ancient South India.
Though we live on different sides of the world, we often have a lot of food centric discussions with likeminded people on the net. Most of these discussions tend to revolve around recipes and memories our traditional Indian cuisine.
I have discovered a lot about old and not-so-old South Indian food traditions and recipes from Ammini Ramachandran from these conversations. A few years back and then again recently, she had posted and talked about a dish she had made with pomegranate for Thanksgiving.
I love pomegranate. We tend to find it at the markets here, almost throughout the year. I’m calling this dish an Indian Pomegranate Salad for want of a better descriptive name. This recipe truly embodies the “less is more” concept. It needs nothing more than pomegranate, coconut oil or ghee, curry leaves, crushed black pepper and salt.
Ammini’s recipe comes from a 3rd century Sangam period poem called Perumpanattrupadai. I’m sharing a little background about the origins of this recipe, that Ammini was generous enough to let me have. For more about food references from Perumpanattrupadai, please see her blog Pepper Trail where she talks about this in detail.
Quoting Ammini Ramamchandran, “Pathupattu, an anthology of ten mid length poems is one of the oldest surviving Tamil poetry. These poems praise kings, their valor, wars, generosity, loyalty, and gratitude. The poems describing the king’s generosity give graphic descriptions of food that he gave to the bards who wrote them……..
Of these, Perumpaanattuppadai is a poem of 500 lines. Perumpanars were bards who played the large yal (lute) accompanied by their singing. In this poem, a bard recommends fellow bards seek the help of his patron Thondaiman Ilanthirayan, the ruler of Kanchi.
The poem graphically recounts the things the bards would see on the way, as they travelled to the capital city of Kanchi.
About this particular recipe it says – When the bards got to the Brahmin settlements at sunset, they would be given well cooked rice bearing the name of a bird along with fresh pomegranate cooked with butter made from the milk of red skinned cows, fresh curry leaves and black pepper. They would also serve fragrant pickles made with tender green mangoes. “
Going back to the Indian Pomegranate Salad recipe, I used coconut oil instead of ghee. I added a little salt and also did not cook the pomegranate as suggested by the original recipe. I like the crisp crunch of fresh pomegranate arils and wanted to retain that. So I heated the oil, crisped the curry leaves in it and added it to the pomegranate.
This can be served on the side with traditional South Indian meals of rice and curry, rice and yogurt or even North Indian meals with chapathis or parathas and yogurt.