I don’t need to tell you again how much I love Middle Eastern food, and this time I’ve indulged in a festive Persian dish of Moorish origins, often eaten at special occasions such as weddings. Fesenjoon is a stew made with pomegranate molasses and walnuts reduced to a cream. If you don’t fancy chicken, this recipe works perfectly with duck, or you can make a vegetarian version using butternut squash or aubergines. This Persian recipe, taken from the book Saffron Tales, doesn’t really require a lot of work (if you don’t count peeling a pomegranate as work), it just needs patience and time for the walnuts to reduce into a dark, velvety sauce, and then for the chicken to cook in it: the final touch, pomegranate seeds, add a refreshing flavour as well as a touch of glamour to this visually stunning dish.
250g ground walnuts
1.2l cold water
100ml pomegranate molasses (I didn’t have it, so I used golden syrup instead)
1 tbsp tomato puree (I made my own and added a chopped sun dried tomato)
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
¼ tsp golpar (this is optional – I didn’t add it)
800g chicken pieces (chicken thighs are better for this recipe, and you can choose to have them boneless, but it’s not required)
A handful of pomegranate seeds, to garnish
Step 1 – Ground the walnuts in a food processor until they are reduced to a paste.
Step 2 – Place your walnut paste into a large casserole pot. Add the water and stir well. Place the pot on the stove at a high heat for five minutes. Then turn the heat down to a gentle flame and let it simmer for one hour, partially covered with a lid. Stir occasionally to avoid the walnut sticking to the bottom.
Step 3 – After that, add 200ml of water, stir it well with the sauce and let cook for another hour. If you realise that the sauce is looking dry, add a little more water: by the end of the hour you will be aiming for a dark, creamy, porridge-like texture.
Step 4 – Once you have the desired texture, move onto the flavours. Add the molasses, tomato puree, cinnamon, sugar, salt and pepper and golpar, if you have it. Stir well and add the chicken pieces, place the lid on the pot again and continue to cook for 45 minutes on a gentle heat, until the chicken is cooked and the sauce has reached a wonderful chocolate colour.
Step 5 – Taste for seasoning and adjust according to your taste: you could add some sugar if you want your sauce to be sweeter, or molasses if you want it to be sourer. Cook for a final 10 minutes with the lid off to thicken the sauce further.
Step 6 – Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and serve with some steamed rice. You’ll be surprised at the gorgeous flavours this dish will bring to your table! If you try this recipe, we would love to hear from you!