Monday, May 25, 2009
Ginarek or Geranak
It’s typical of Arabic accents that this fruit has two names depending on who you speak to, and at least three spellings. We shall stick to genarek or jinarek. Don’t worry too much about the Latin spellings: this is, after all, phonetic transliteration of a non-Romance language!
Ginarak (pronounced jenarek) is much loved in the Arab world. It looks like a wee green apple, almost like a crab apple – and has a slightly sour flavour, although by no means as bitter or astringent as a crab apple. It has a light, delicate taste that somehow reminds me a little of gooseberries and yet it has a most satisfyingly crunchy quality. All in all, it’s one of the Middle East’s best kept secrets.
It’s in season right now and you’ll find it in little trays in all the supermarkets – it’s traditionally eaten raw with, at the most, salt. Ginarak’s got a stone in the middle that’s pretty much stuck to the fruit, so it’s almost impossible to pit: you have to cut around the stone to remove the flesh. Although most people snack on jinarek raw, it stews well (you have to do it gently to avoid burning the fruit and then press it through a sieve: the resulting pulp can be used as a fruit puree - you'll need quite a bit of sugar but I've tried stewing it in sweet wine which is just diviiine and very Levantine Roman) and there are pickle recipes out there, buried deep in Levantine Mums' treasure chests. When I find one, I’ll share.
In the meantime, here’s a recipe for ginarek shots, an application for the refreshing, crunchy quality of the fruit that hit me just before a dinner party...