Pomegranate, pear, fennel and aragula salad

PearPomegranateFennelSalad © J Horak-Druiff 2012

Pomegranate_saladI have to admit that I am something of a salad slacker.  Not to say that I don’t love salads – on the contrary, I do!  But the problem is that by the time I have finished faffing around with the main course, I am not in the mood for deaming up an exotic salad, so we end up having the absolute standard lettuce, cucumber, tomato, onion and bell pepper salad (and anyway, I think this is secretly the salad Nick prefers!).  I am also somewhat of a slacker when it comes to seasonal eating.  Partly, I blame this on a kind of seasonal jet-lag induced by living in a hemishpere where you didn’t grow up.  I still remember strawberries as being associated with Christmas and being off the shelves by my birthday in March, or loads of oranges and satsumas being available in the chill of June – just in time for rugby players to get orange wedges to snack on at half-time 😉  So let’s just say that my food cravings are often out of synch with the northern hemisphere seasons!!  Of course, you can get any fruit at any time of the year in London, but I have discovered that no matter how tempting those imported December strawberries at Waitrose might look, they will disappoint you in terms of taste :-(  Not to mention the food miles issues!

A couple of weeks ago, I had some friends over for lunch and while wandering the aisles of my local supermarket seekign inspiration, I found a pack of chicken livers.  Yaaaaay!  I know, I know, I need to get out more… but you must understand that up to now our local supermarkets have stubbornly not sold chicken livers!  I am used to South Africa where chicken livers take up a yard-long stretch of the chest freezers in most supermarkets and are never a problem to obtain, but out in the wilds of E16, some marketing genius has obviously decided that there isn’t enough of a market, so they don’t stock them.  Until now!  I was so overjoyed at finding them in our local Sainsbury’s that I bought a few packets and immediately decided to make a chicken liver paté starter for the abovementioned lunch.  The immediate next question was what to serve with the pate.  I definitely wander something light and salad-ish, but I also wanted it to have fairly strident flavours to stand up to the pate.  And maybe a touch of sweetness would work with the paté.  Oh yes – and a seasonal hat-tip would be nice too 😉 I found my sweet inspiration in the fruit aisles a few minutes later…

Pomegranates.  One of the fruits that Editedpomegranate evoke (in me, anyway!) visions of Arabian nights; of biblical stories; or Nazarene princesses languishing in the Alhambra.  And that’s probably not far off, as it’s an ancient tree that is mentioned in the Old Testament and has in fact given its name to the beautiful city of Granada (all the manhole covers have stylised pomegranate fruits embossed on them!).  Although it’s not really grown in England, it does grow in nearby Spain and is in season in the middle of the European winter.  Perfect!  The fruits are probably about the size of an orange and (to me) look a bit like red guavas.  They have a range of uses – it seems the flowers, seeds, fruits and bark can all be used for something, but it is usually the red pulp surrounding the seeds that is eaten (or made into currently vogueish pomegranate juice).  I had never actually dealt with a whole fruit before but I had heard that getting to the seeds is quite a production – and they are not lying.  In terms of wasted “packaging”, I would say the pomegranate is the fruit equivalent of the broad bean:  you discard a lot more than you eat!  First comes the decision of where to slice into the whole fruit (I elected to lop the top off till I had penetrated the rind and pith down to the seeds).  From then on, you have to go at it with your fingers, breaking open the polystyrene-like bitter white pith and carefully extracting the seeds, which come wrapped in an absolutely lovely ruby-red translucent pulp.  If you feel so inclined you can remove each teeny seed from its pulp but I would say it’s like pipping grapes – really not worth the effort.  The taste is sweet but with an delightful astringency and the juice is as blood red as can be.  Just gorgeous.

The next question was what to add to these little ruby beauties to make my salad.  I wanted something crispy, something distinctly savoury and maybe something sweeter.  So in the end, I came up with the pomegranate, pear, fennel and aragula (or rocket) salad you see above.  The flavours and textures worked terrifically well together and oh man, it was pretty!  Plus I believe that English pears are also deemed to be seasonal at the moment, so I got in a second seasonal bonus point 😉 And drizzled with a little homemade raspberry vinaigrette dressing, it made a great partner for the rich paté.  Definitely a keeper!


Pomegranate, pear, fennel and arugula salad
Prep time
Total time
A salad that's quick to assemble but will impress guests with its rich flavour, texture and colour.
Recipe type: Salad
Serves: 6
  • 1 bag washed wild rocket
  • 1 large (or 2 small) ripe pears
  • 1 large bulb of fennel
  • seeds from half a large pomegranate
  • ¼ cup of grapeseed oil (or other fairly neutral oil)
  • 3 Tbsp raspberry vinegar
  • 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Remove the arils from half of the pomegranate; trim the fennel bulb and slice into thin slices. Toss the fennel and pomegranate arils together wild rocket.
  2. Just before serving (so that it doesn't go brown), peel quarter and thinly slice the pear and add that to the salad. If you plate the salad, scatter a few pomegranate arils over each plate before serving.
  3. For the dressing, shake all of the ingredients together in a tightly sealed bottle. Taste and adjust any ingredient that you think might be lacking - dressing is such a personal taste. Drizzle sparingly over the salad just before serving.
The dressing makes a lot - keep it in the fridge in a sealed container and use for up to a week.

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  1. says

    I’m absolutely reeling that chicken livers have been unavailable to you. You live in London, don’t you? A rather large centre – to put it mildly. How very back-woods of the local supermarkets. No wait. Back-woods WOULD sell chicken livers…. Never mind. At least they have seen the light now. (I can’t remember ever NOT seeing chicken livers at any meat counter here – unless the shop has run out for the day.)
    But I really came in here to say that your salad looks fabulous. I love pomegranate but rarely buy it – it’s always expensive here and I can never tell whether it will be good or not. (Is there a secret to knowing which pomegranate to choose?)
    And finally, what do you do about the little inedible hard part inside each pomegranate seed?

  2. says

    I love seasonal cooking and even though all these ingredients are available now in Australia, I’ll wait till winter to try this salad.

  3. Julia says

    Regarding chicken livers, I go to Green Valley supermarket just off Edgeware Road occasionally to stock up on meat. They have all sorts of animal parts, livers, kidneys, hoofs, testicles, tongues, chicken, veal, lamb, rabbit, etc.
    I would highly recommend it for variety and freshness.

  4. says

    What a wonderful and bright combination of flavors for the middle of winter! As for being inspired by chicken livers, well, that’s probably never going to happen to me, but it’s fun when the markets finally catch up and carry something you love. I live in a rural part of New England, with one small market in our town, and every now and then I’ll discover something wonderful and unexpected there — like pomegranates!

  5. says

    The salad sounds (& looks) lovely!
    I adore pomegranates – I’d never actually seen a fresh one until I came to England 9 years ago, and was quickly seduced by their taste and prettiness. It’s almost like eating little jewels.
    And very wierd about the chicken livers – my local Tescos sells them! I make myself pâté every now and then as a treat. I’ll definitely have to remember this salad for accompaniment next time.

  6. says

    Hi Elizabeth
    I have to say, it still amazes me too… I’m not sayign that you can’t get chicken liver sin London – of course you can, and I have seen them in supermarkets in other suburbs. But we have three large supermarkets from three large national chains within 10 minutes of our house, and up to now NOT ONE of them regularly stocks chicken livers! It is astounding. Seeing how much chicken they stock, I have to wonder where the hell all those livers are going?!? I’m afraid I have absolutely no idea as to how to choose a good pomegranate, I’m afraid – luck of the draw for me! And as for the little hard seed in each red pulp cell – it’s like grape pips. I take my chances and eat them and hope a pomegranate tree doesn’t grow in my tummy! :o)
    Hi Paul
    I admire your will-power! 😉
    Hi Julia
    Mmmmm, tongue! I grew up eating tongue and absolutely loved it with a nice mustard sauce… But Nick won’t touch it with a barge pole! That’s something else you seldom see in “mainstream” shops, despite the Fergus Henderson effect. Thanks for the tip on Green Valley.
    Hi Lydia
    Thanks :) It was a rather gorgeous salad for a chilly season – cheers you up on sight! Good luck with finding little culinary surprises in your area. My favourite find when I was in Connecticut in October was Macoun apples. Yum yum yum!
    Hi Christina
    My thought exactly – pomegranate seeds are like little jewels! Maybe I like them because they remind me of garnets 😉 I would love to know how the bg supermarkets decide where to stock somethign and where not to. I used to get them from the Sainsbury’s in Wood Green when my friend lived up there – clearly there was perceived to be a market for them there, but not in E16. Go figure.
    Hi Brilynn
    You are so right! They are my garnish of choice at the moment. Wait till you see the pics of the main course where I used them as a garnish too… 😉

  7. says

    Well, here’s irony for you. Because of you, we braved the snow and the cold and walked a short distance to the nearest supermarket to get chicken livers for dinner. It’s a huge supermarket with an independent butcher’s counter. THEY DIDN’T HAVE ANY CHICKEN LIVERS!!! We couldn’t believe it. Apparently, chicken livers would arrive the next day.
    There WERE packaged chicken livers in the refrigerated meat section but they were ridiculously expensive – not to mention that it wasn’t really clear when they had been packaged. (We normally bicycle to a market to buy chicken livers from a poultry shop that supplies many of the restaurants. The quality is considerably higher and the prices are markedly lower.)
    As a result, we took a sudden change in direction and purchased some decent looking porkchops. But remind us to get chicken livers next week!

  8. says

    My local supermarket doesn’t stock chicken livers too! We have to get them at the chicken shop.
    That said, I manage to score a pomegranate from the supermarket the other day and I have been looking for a recipe to use it with! Your salad sounds like just the thing to use it on. I just hope my pomegranate is still edible! 😉

  9. says

    I love your salad, it is so colorful, and looks delicious!
    re chicken livers, chicken livers seemed to be a cheap food over here and available almost everywhere; nowadays they are not as easy to find, I need to go to a poultry stall on a farmers market – my local supermarket only offers turkey livers, and the lady behind the counter had the nerve to say that they taste better than chicken livers anway, when I asked for chicken livers explicitly. It is available frozen but I don’t buy frozen liver. At least the Turkish grocer and butcher seems to have chicken livers often now, they don’t buy chicken parts but do cut them in the shop.
    Hmmm chicken livers, mashed potatoes and fried onion… paté… chicken livers in port wine sauce (tapa style)… I’m hungry :-)