Who would expect the leathery, patchy skin of a pomegranate to hide such beauty? The bitter white membrane holds clusters of tiny, edible seeds, which are covered with a thin layer of glistening, translucent ruby flesh. The seeds have a tart-sweet flavour and delicate, crisp 'bite'. When a recipe calls for pomegranate seeds, it means the whole seed, the flesh and the core. Pomegranates are believed to have originated in Persia (now Iran) and are popular in Middle Eastern cuisines, in which the seeds are used to give visual and textural contrast to smooth purees or soups, including hummus. For other dishes, the pomegranates are pressed and strained to separate the seeds from the flesh. The resulting juice is used for drinks, sorbets and sweets, and also as a marinade for meats because the acidity in the fruit acts as a tenderiser. The juice can be fermented and made into wine, or reduced and made into a thick, dark syrup or molasses. Pomegranate syrup is delicious brushed over roasting meats for a tangy glaze that caramelises into a delicate, brown sheen; added to vinaigrettes to give flavour and a slight viscosity; and diluted with water or broth for soups and stews. The most famous syrup made from pomegranate is grenadine, which is used in alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, including tequila sunrise cocktails. Pomegranates are also used in Indian cuisines, in which the seeds are dried, ground and used as a souring agent for chutneys, vegetables and legumes. The dried seeds are sometimes pounded with other spices and herbs to make masala spice pastes. Because of their tart flavour, pomegranates seeds and syrups effectively cut through the richness of fatty meats such as duck and lamb. For a glaze for meats, mix olive oil, garlic and chopped herbs with pomegranate syrup (if you can't find syrup, press the pomegrantes with a citrus juicer and reduce the liquid until thickened slightly). Brush over the lamb or duck as the meat roasts. For sweet dishes, add fresh pomegranate seeds to winter fruit salads of apples, pears and citrus fruits - the seeds will add colour and crunch. They are also delicious scattered over rice pudding or other creamy custard dishes, and make a lovely addition to a passionfruit pavlova. Take care when removing the seeds from pomegranates or extracting the juice - it stains.