January 26, 2010

Fesenjoon - One of the Best Persian Stews

by Marjan

Walnuts and pomegranates are in season! Have you ever imagined a stew made with these two ingredients? Sounds heavenly! I’m always a little hesitant to recommend Fesenjoon to my non-Persian friends. The appearance of this dish is similar to the Mexican dish the Mole: dark brownish stew with chicken. But unlike the Mole, this Persian stew is a taste bud’s delight. The ingredients are simple: crushed walnuts, pomegranate syrup (please do not substitute pomegranate juices for syrup - Anja tried this and can attest to its disappointing outcome) and chicken. Pomegranate syrup can be purchased in most Middle Eastern markets, or you can order from Sadaf online store. This sweet and sour stew takes some time to fully prepare, but once you have it, you will dream about it at night. Fesenjoon is best served with Persian rice; however, it even tastes good 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 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.


INGREDIENTS (for 6-8 people)
2 medium onions
8 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 ½ lb. crushed walnut
3 cups water
2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken pieces
½ cup pomegranate concentrated juice/syrup
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ - ½ cup sugar (to taste)

1. Finely dice onion and sauté in 4 tablespoon vegetable oil until evenly, golden brown. Take extra precaution to not burn the onion or have the edges black. Once complete, strain onion from the oil. Discard oil.

2. Place walnuts and three cups of water in a blender and mix until liquefied with small granules. Add more water if the mixture is not runny.

3. In a large stew pan, over medium-high heat, bring the above walnut mixture 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. Again, add cold water to the mixture if needed to create a runny consistency. Bring the heat down low and continue to stir for an hour.

4. Add onions to the mixture and continue to stir.

5. Add ½ tsp. salt and pomegranate syrup to the walnut mixture and continue to 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 boil for 3 hours to allow the walnuts to exude its natural oil. The finished consistency should be similar to runny oatmeal; if not, add cold water to the mix until a runny consistency is achieved. If the mixture has too much liquid, continue to boil until the excess liquid evaporates.

6. Add sugar (to taste) to the mixture and continue to simmer.

7. Meanwhile, in the same frying pan, heat remaining oil and lightly brown chicken pieces. Sprinkle turmeric and remaining salt. Do not fully cook pieces.

8. Add chicken and all of the juices and oil to the walnut mixture and continue to cook for another hour.

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).

47 comments:

  1. What an interesting mix of ingredients....I love the variety of recipes you offer...thanks

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  2. That is my favorite Persian dish!!! Even though I've become a Persian food addict (thanks, Marjan!), I love Fesenjoon more than anything. I'm glad that after two trials I mastered to make it myself. Can't wait for my walnut tree to yield this year's walnuts... they will for sure turn into Fesenjoon.

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    1. AnonymousMay 13, 2012

      How many calories per portion???

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  3. It sounds delightful, can't wait to try it myself! As much as i like stews in general i don't think i never tried making it.

    Thanks Marjan!

    sun

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  4. Walnut and pomegranate - sounds like a dish that's both delicious and healthy.

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  5. "But unlike the Mole, this Persian stew is a taste bud’s delight."

    And I stopped reading right there. If you can't appreciate a proper mole (of which there are many more than the mole negro or poblano version you most likely tried) then how can one trust your judgment regarding any recipe? You can't.

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    1. AnonymousJuly 13, 2012

      Lol Persian Cuisine is probably one of the finest and most complex foods out there. It is literally the food of kings. Mexican cuisine, not so much. Although, it is good and unique in its own way.

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  6. I like mole and fesenjan (especially with duck). They're very different but do look alot alike.

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  7. Wonderful recipe. I would like permission to reprint the picture accompanying your article, of course with a link to your site as well. Please contact me at stephanie.meade at gmail.com for further information. Thank you.

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  8. So is this a total of 5 hours of simmering?

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  9. Yes, it is approximately five hours...but it is well worth it! Enjoy. Let me know how it turned out!

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    1. Now hear this! Now hear this!

      To all concerned. Pomegranate syrup is easily and cheaply home made.

      Just get a jug of pomegranate juice from the juice shelf of your local supermarket. Make sure it's the straight stuff. Go with Alton Brown's recipe:

      4 cups pomegranate juice
      1/2 cup sugar
      1 tablespoon lemon juice

      Throw it all in a saucepan and fire it up.
      Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
      Lower heat and simmer the liquid till you're left with about 1 1/2 cup syrup.

      And there you are. No need having to bust your bustle seeking out and coughing up big bucks for the exotic, imported goo.

      Side note: be vewwy, vewwy careful not to go too far in reducing the liquid. Reduce it past a certain point and it instantly turns into hard candy.

      What you don't use you can pour in a jar and refrigerate until the twelfth of never. I wouldn't be surprised if the ancient Achaemenids mummified their dead in the stuff...

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  10. If you're not a big chicken fan, try making it with meatballs! I use 1lb lean ground beef and 1lb ground turkey (trying to stay healthy), 1tsp tumeric, and some of the sauteed onions to make the meatballs. Then I fry them in a pan until golden brown and add to the stew to simmer. This dish always tastes twice as good the next day!!

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  11. Your right Nelou: meatballs are a great tasty alternative. Originally, Fesenjoon is made with duck. Then came meatballs, and finally chicken (always a last option for me too)! Enjoyed your blog :)

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  12. How come my fesenjoon didn't come out to be the muddy color that it normally is? I used 1/2c of pomogranate molasses like the recipe called for and it's still a beige color.

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  13. To achieve a dark rich color is based more on how long the crushed walnut puree is simmered. The longer you allow it to simmer (stirring constantly to prevent settling and burning of the walnuts). Therefore, for a richer color, simmer longer; for a tangy sweet flavor, you can add as much pomegranate syrup as you desire. 1/2 cup is plenty! Make sure you simmer for a good 3 hours the wanlut puree first. Please let me know if you have any further questions...How was the taste?

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  14. Mole is really good.

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  15. This is one of my favorite Persian Dish! I have one question regarding the time of cooking. It sounds like this recipe will take about 4 to 5 hours to complete. Why does the mixture needs to be on the gas for so long?

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  16. Great question! Walnuts need to cook for a long time to establish a rich flavor. Three hours, usually is enough time for the walnut to braise and release its natural oil to stir up a luxurious deep flavor and color. Enjoy :)

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  17. loved this :)

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  18. Hi marjan! Your recipes sound delicious! Living in sweden so could you tell me roughly how many chicken breasts that would be and how much walnuts in grams? Thanks

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  19. I hope you can find pomegranite syrup in sweden! Try sadaf.com to order onlin. Try my recipe and tell me how it turns out! If you have any questions, I'll be happy to help.
    2 lbs of walnut are is approximately 900 grams.
    6-8 chicken legs/wings are should be close enough...use as much chicken as you like. I hope you enjoy this dish.

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  20. Marjan- How disappointing and irresponsible of you to publish such a negative comment about Mole. It's totally unnecessary to trash another culture's gastronomy to make yours look good. Shame on you!

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    1. I think u got up on the wrong side of the bed dude! Shame on you for being so negative as to take ones preference of taste into cultural war!

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    2. YOUR THE ONE WHO IS NEGATIVE AND DISAPPOINTING. I LOVE BOTH THE MOLE AND FESENJON. BUT I CAN UNDERSTAND HOW ONE IS MORE TASTY THAN THE OTHER. IT MUST BE HARD FOR YOU TO LIVE YOUR LIFE THINKING EVERYTHING IS ABOUT YOU 'GLOBALNEGATIVE'

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    3. AnonymousMay 13, 2012

      Shame on you globalnomad!

      Delete
  21. Dear GlobalNomad,I'm sorry for you to have been deeply insulted for my remark: "The appearance of this dish is similar to the Mexican dish the Mole: dark brownish stew with chicken. But unlike the Mole, this stew is a taste bud's delight" To simply imply MY own personal preference of one being more tasty than another is not "disappointing", "irresponsible", "negative", "trashing another culture's gastronomy"! Really, it was not meant to be negative, it is unfortunate you perceived it in this way. I simply meant one is more tasty than the other! I consider myself a "world citizin" as I believe you also do, hence "GlobalNomad". I think you are stirring more negativity and separatism than the instructions recommended to make Fesenjoon! I wish you peace :)

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  22. cat fight! love it!! what's the big deal?

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  23. AnonymousMay 13, 2012

    I had my first fesenjoon last night loved it...Just concerning about the calories...

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    1. And that is truly a problem! I dont' know the caloric count of fesenjoon, but I am certain it is high due to it's use of walnuts! Walnuts are high in fat; the good news is IT IS GOOD FAT! Another workds, vegetable fat vs animal fat. Everything in moderation.

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  24. AnonymousJune 23, 2012

    Yes! I recall in Iran my mother served fesenjoon with duck!!! Memeories :) Thanks for taking me back in time.

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  25. AnonymousJuly 28, 2012

    This is very good, the only thing I STRONGLY disagree with, is the assertion that this is good "..unlike Mole...". Mole is also GREAT, but I think comparing both dishes is out of place, they are just two VERY different WONDERFUL dishes! In any case, thanks for sharing this recipe.

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  26. Why do we not have room in our hearts for opinions! It's just food! Not war! Opinion!!!!!! Taste: like art is subjective... People please get along! Life is too short to be do rigid!

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  27. Can you do this in a crock pot? I'd love to make it, but the thought of babysitting it for 5 hours...not so much :)
    Thanks for posting. Crock pot or no, I'm looking forward to enjoying this giant dish of YUM.

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    1. That is a great idea! I have never tried using a crock pot...my only concern would be you would still need to stir every couple of hours so the walnut does not settle and burn.
      This dish does take time; but, you don't need to spend five hours on the dish...occasionally stirring is all that is need...ideal for a day you are home and want to treat yourself to a nice dinner.
      Enjoy! Let me know how it turns out with the crock pot!
      Marjan

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  28. I ordered a dish like this at a local restaurant and always wondered how to make it myself. Thanks for sharing this recipe, it looks delicious!

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  29. I think every country has a lot of tasty foods, and we shouldn't judge because we like one more than another.
    Even in Iran fesenjoon has different taste in different area.
    In north of iran no sugar is used and tatse is more sour.
    and also they make it with duck,and other local wild birds in the local market. Also you can buy the best and real pomegranate paste in local and farm market in cities in north of Iran which can not be found in North America or Europe.

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  30. I love the level of detail in this recipe and am impressed by the skill and knowledge that you have shared with us. Not to take away from the food but I have to confess that as a Persian I am embarrassed by the comments about the superiority of Persian food made by yourself and in comments. I like to think that a well developed Persian skill is an understanding of others feelings and politeness. This skill seems sometimes lost in the new world and in an effort to share, Persians appear to others (from the Western view) to be in a constant arrogant but socially clueless pursuit to prove that they are better than others. I know this was not the intention but this is how it lands on other people. At the extreme end of this behaviour Persians are lampooned in shows like Shahs of Sunset. I would suggest that when someone is offended by your behaviour instead of proving yourself to be right, you apologize and say that is it not your intention but if it landed that way on the other person you are sorry. That is all you have to say. You can swear at them behind their back but that is what any gracious host should do.

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  31. Dear Anonymous,
    It is apparant another great Persian skill is to be critical and attempt to tell others what to say, think and do. I appreciate your lessons teaching me how to be gracious. Your right, it is sometimes easier to apologize (to save face and later 'swear at them behind their back'...is this another skill I should graciously adapt?). My personal preferance in taste is not arrogant or trying to show superiority. I am not trying to prove myself right or prevent anyone from expressing their opinions. Please elucidate how my comments for preferance of taste was insulting to another persons feelings? I already made a comment 'that was not my intention'...I don't feel an apology is needed for showing preference.
    As far as what others choose to comment, we have to allow freedom of expression.
    Thank you for expressing yourself; teaching others what is right and wrong; telling them how to behave to their face and behind their back; how "Persian" should and should not be; and most importantly, how to be gracious.
    I hope once and for all, people with open minds and hearts will understand I was showing my personal preferance in taste! Their is not cultural war; only the one made up in our minds.
    Peace
    Marjan

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  32. Dear Marjan:
    I am sorry that I offended you. I will try to "elucidate" my view as you'd requested.

    "I am only trying share my superior Canadian etiquette skills. After all, in my humble opinion, Canadians are far better educated and more refined than loud brash Americans when it comes to manners."

    Before your blood boils I want to point out that I am merely expressing my personal opinion and exercising my right to "freedom of expression". I hope this extreme analogy clarifies to you why people were offended by your comments about the superior taste of fesenjoon to mole.

    My comment about "swear at them behind their back" was not meant to be taken literally but was merely a way to say " your personal opinion can differ".

    I don't expect you to post this and hope you will continue with your blog.

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    1. growing up, my grandmother always reminded: 'you can only be offended if you have self doubt'.no reason to be offended here. I understand the writer's taste buds favoring one to another. honesty goes a long way in my book. wondering if you can add some heat with chilies?

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  33. Wondering how well pecans would work in this dish.

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    1. I'm certain you can substitude pecans...I have never tried it myself. However, I think walnut is a more open canvas for the flavors of the pomegranate syrup. Please try it and let me know how you like it.

      I recently invested in a Crock Pot! I loved it!! Less work with stirring :)

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  34. Fesenjoon is excellent!

    Depending on the cook, Mole can be quite complex in it's flavors. You should probably reserve your opinion on this until you have a chance to try something away from the canned variety, though.

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  35. I just stumbled upon this and I feel (ridiculously perhaps)that I too have to stick up for Mole. I have made it with people from Oaxaca and it is the most complex sauce I have ever made. It takes at least one whole day to do all the roasting of the peppers. It is pretty amazing when done right. Persian food is amazing too, but as others have said don't knock the mole.:-)

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  36. HakhamaneshJanuary 07, 2014

    Fesenjoon is a wonderful Persian dish. Curiously, it is more popular with Westerners than it is with Persians who favor more sour flavors. This was a very nice blog post, except for the unfortunate opinion on the masterpiece of Mexican cuisine--a viewpoint that reflects limitations in palette one would be surprised to find in a culinary cosmopolitan.

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  37. I ll never forget the fir ast time I tried it. like you mentioned in the article, I was thinking about it almost every evening.I convinced my girlfriend at the time to ask her aunt(She was a second generation Iranian)for the recipe. It takes a long time to cook so she could not make it for me every night, but she did it once a week at least.great stuff especially when escorted with Persian safron rice.

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