Walnuts and pomegranates are in season! Have you ever imagined a stew made with these two ingredients? I’m always a little hesitant to recommend Fesenjoon to my non-Persian friends based on it's brownish stew appearance; which is similar to the Mexican dish, the mole- dark brownish stew with chicken. But unlike the Mole, Fesenjoon has a robust, tangy, earthy flavor; whereas the mole has a deeper note of cocoa and chile. The ingredients for this sweet and sour Persian stew are simple: crushed walnuts, pomegranate syrup and chicken. Chicken can be omitted in this recipe for an equally delicious vegetarian option. Thankfully pomegranate syrup can be purchased in most Middle Eastern markets. Fesenjoon takes some time to fully prepare; but once you taste it, you will dream about it at night and will want to continue making it once again. Fesenjoon is best served with Persian rice; however, it even tastes great cold with a slice of pita bread. I often sneak into the refrigerator and eat spoons of it like dessert. It is sinfully good and comforting in frigid autumn and winter weather.
Not only is this my father’s favorite Persian dish, but it will soon become yours. Give this recipe a try and email me with any questions.
For a easy to make recipe of Fesenjoon using a crock pot, check out our new post Fesenjan- Made easy.
**note: spelling of Fesenjoon and Fesenjan can be used interchangeably
INGREDIENTS (for 6-8 people)
1 medium onion
8 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 lb. walnut ( about 2 cups; check when buying walnuts for freshness- avoiding walnuts that may be rancid from from long shelf life)
3-4 cups water
2 lb. boneless, skinless bite size cuts of chicken breast (omit for vegetarian option)
1 cup pomegranate syrup/molasses
1 tsp salt
¼ - ½ cup sugar (to taste)
1. In a food processor, crush walnuts into small, powdery granules. If using a blender, add some water to the walnuts to crush easier.
2. In a large stew pan, over medium-high heat, add crushed walnuts and 4 cups of water and bring to a gentle boil; constantly stirring to prevent settling of the walnut on the bottom of the pot and also to prevent the mixture from boiling over. Add cold water if needed to create a runny consistency if mixture is too thick and clumpy. Bring heat down low and continue to stir occasionally for an hour.
3. Meanwhile, finely dice onion and sauté over low heat in 4 tablespoon vegetable oil until evenly, golden brown. Take extra precaution to not burn onion or have the edges black. Once complete, strain onion from the oil. Discard oil.
5. Add ½ tsp. salt and pomegranate syrup to the walnut mixture; simmer over low heat. Again continue to stir every thirty minutes to prevent settling of the walnut at the bottom of the pot. Allow mixture to gently boil for 2-3 hours until the finished consistency is similar to runny oatmeal. If mixture is too thick and clunky, add cold water to the mix until a runny consistency is achieved; on the other hand, if mixture is runny, continue to cook until excess water is evaporated to reach the correct consistency.
6. Add sugar (to taste) to the mixture and continue to simmer and stir.
7. Meanwhile, in the same frying pan used to prepare onions, over medium low, heat remaining oil and sauté chicken pieces for 5-6 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and stir for an additional minute. Do not fully cook pieces. Omit this step for vegetarian option.
8. Transfer chicken and all of the juices and oil to the walnut mixture; cook for 30 minutes longer.
9. Taste the walnut mixture and add more salt or sugar to taste. This dish is delightful with Persian rice, or it can be enjoyed cold with pita bread to snack on the leftovers (if any is left).