Fesenjan: Iranian Chicken, Walnut and Pomegranate Stew

Fesenjan

20160904_132624

Fesenjan: Iranian Chicken, Walnut and Pomegranate Stew

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!

 Ingredients:

  • 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
  • water
  • salt to taste
  • sugar to taste
  • Fresh pomegranate seeds, to serve

 

 

Method:

  • 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

 

20160904_132624

Fesenjan: Iranian Chicken, Walnut and Pomegranate Stew

This is a very rich and heavy meal so the pomegranate seeds and salad help to lighten and lift the flavours somewhat.

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Mum's Chinese Chicken and Potato Stew

Chicken and potato stew with fermented beancurd

Chicken and potato stew with fermented beancurd

This dish makes a regular appearance at the dinner table when I’m eating at my parent’s house. My mum taught me to cook it when I was a student so I could cook traditional Chinese foods instead of eating ready made microwave meals every day. It’s such a simple dish to make that I actually stuck to it and would make a big pot that would last a few meals. I don’t have the recipe written down anywhere, just have it stored in my head. I have tried to look for it online but only found versions of the same recipe, so I guess it is the kind of family dish that is slightly different depending on which part of the world you are in!

This Chinese Chicken and Potato Stew recipe is close to my mum’s recipe, but with a vital missing ingredient: fermented tofu. This is may be an unfamiliar ingredient to people who don’t usually cook this kind of Chinese food, so here’s the Wikipedia explanation. I have to admit that I had no idea how fermented tofu was actually made until I read this, so I have learned something new today! The fermented tofu gives the dish a unique flavour, it’s hard to describe… it is somehow more ‘savoury’ in taste. Sorry that’s the best I can do! For this dish I used the red variety and this resulted in a deeper colour. 

I don’t usually post recipes but since I can’t find an exact version of my mum’s then here goes:

Chicken and Potato Stew

  • 1 pack of chicken drumsticks and thighs (chopped into small pieces)
  • 4 medium sized potatoes (cut into quarters)
  • 2 cubes Fermented tofu (white or red will do)
  • 3 cloves of garlic (squashed with the side of the knife)
  • 1 tbls Oyster sauce
  • splash of both light and dark soy sauce
  • sprinkle of sugar (to balance the flavours)
  • sesame oil (a few drops to taste)

How to cook:

  1. Brown off the chicken pieces with the garlic
  2. Add all other ingredients aside from the potatoes and stir it up so the chicken is evenly coated
  3. Add potatoes and stir stir again
  4. Put a lid on then cook on a low heat until the chicken is done. Stir it up every ten minutes and add water if it looks too dry.

As I said, it’s an easy dish to prepare. The cooking time will depend on the size of your potatoes and chicken pieces, this time it took me around 25 minutes. 

Garnish with chopped up green onions to make it look pretty and add a different texture. Serve with plain steamed rice and balance with a fairly bland green vegetable dish, this chicken is very rich in flavour. You may think that serving potatoes with rice is a little strange but that’s how I had it growing up and it tastes delicious!

Chicken and potato stew with fermented beancurd

Chicken and potato stew with fermented beancurd

 Variations to this dish could include using pork belly instead of chicken or use deep fried beancurd/tofu for the protein to make it vegetarian! (Substituting the oyster mushrooms for vegetarian stir fry sauce)

Adding shitake mushrooms or wood ear mushrooms, carrots or radishes such as daiykon are also tasty alternatives!