I’ve recently been trying a lot of home cooked Iranian/Persian foods and am really enjoying the intensity of the flavours that are so different from the other Asian foods I’ve had before. I’ve experimented with different recipes and I’ve cooked this fesenjan a few times, I’ve been told it tastes very authentic so I’m sharing the recipe I’ve adapted from this online version from the New York Times. Fesenjan is typically eaten during special occasions in Iran, I like to make it when I have friends for dinner.
Having eaten this dish in various Persian restaurants in my home town, I think I’ve come close to the real deal! It’s not a particularly ‘pretty’ dish but it tastes amazing with a depth of flavour that is rare in a stew that only takes just over an hour to cook. It goes without saying that it tastes even better if left for a day to let the flavours melt together even more!
A word of advice to begin with, the sauce is meant to be very thick and ‘oily’ as the natural oils from the walnuts rise to the surface. Just mix the sauce up to combine the oil again. This recipe does not have any additional oil so it’s a pretty healthy dish overall!
- 8-10 chicken drumsticks and thighs (use chicken breast if you prefer but that can end up quite dry due to the long cooking method)
- 200g shelled walnuts, roasted and ground into a fine powder
- 1 medium white onion, finely diced
- 150 ml pomegranate molasses
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- salt to taste
- sugar to taste
- Fresh pomegranate seeds, to serve
- Start by roasting the walnuts in the oven for 5 minutes at 150 degrees C. Turns them half way through to avoid burning. Let them cool then grind them into a fine powder, but don’t let it turn into a walnut butter!
- In a large saucepan (with a fitted lid) add the ground walnuts, diced onion and 200ml water (or until the nuts and onions are just covered), allow to simmer with the pan lid on tight for 20 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes and check if more water is needed so the nuts don’t stick and burn.
- In the meantime fry off the chicken pieces in a frying pan, no need for extra oil and the natural chicken fats will do that for you. Fry until lightly golden on all sides, no need to fully cook as that happens in the lovely sauce later.
- Add the pomegranate molasses and ground spices to the stewed nuts and onions, mix it all in then add the fried off chicken pieces. Mix it all up with 2 tsp salt and allow to simmer with the pan lid slightly ajar for around 20 minutes. At this point the sauce becomes very ‘watery’ from the chicken juices. Keep stirring it to stop the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan and leave the lid off for a further 20 minutes of cooking or until the sauce becomes really thick and coats the chicken pieces well.
- Add extra salt and sugar to taste. This stew is meant to be on the sour side but I’ve found that different brands of pomegranate mollasses require a little adjustment as they can be quite tart!
- Serve topped with fresh pomegranate seeds and steamed rice, with a bit of salad
This is a very rich and heavy meal so the pomegranate seeds and salad help to lighten and lift the flavours somewhat.