Every week, we’re spotlighting a different food blogger who’s shaking up the blogosphere with tempting recipes and knockout photography. Here, Azita Mehran of Turmeric & Saffron shows us her version of khoresh-e fesenjoon, a complex, spiced chicken stew swirled with pomegranate syrup and roasted walnuts.
Pomegranate, Walnut, and Chicken Stew (Khoresh-e Fesenjoon)
Khoresh-e fesenjoon is one of the most delicious Persian dishes. Biting into a tender piece of well-cooked, sweet-and-sour chicken covered in a tangy sauce of pomegranate and finely ground walnuts is to experience a piece of Persian culture, its food and heritage.
Using fresh ingredients is key. For many of us who live outside of Iran, finding the required ingredients is sometimes a challenge, but for this dish I believe everything is available here [in the northeast United States]. Use fresh walnuts, if possible: If you buy them readily packed in a bag, like I do, check to see that the walnuts’ color is light. Dark-colored and old walnuts taste bitter. Also, be sure to use the right pomegranate concentrate/syrup. It should be a thick consistency, not watery or mixed with a sweetener. Don’t use pomegranate juice instead.
Fesenjoon doesn’t require too many ingredients or prep time. It’s a simple dish and it cooks fast. However, if you want to achieve an authentic dish, what it needs is patience. Khoresh-e fesenjoon has to be cooked on a low temperature and allowed to simmer for all the flavors to blend and the walnut oil to be release gradually into the stew.
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
2 cups shelled walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup pomegranate syrup
2 cups of water, plus more if needed
1 large onion, peeled, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. turmeric
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, rinsed, cut into 1-inch chunks
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash of cinnamon
2-3 Tbsp. sugar
Cooked basmati rice, for serving
In a small saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Sauté the walnuts until they are light golden, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add pomegranate syrup and 2 cups of water. Mix well and simmer for 30-40 minutes on medium-low heat. Set aside.
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until onions are translucent, soft, and golden-brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add turmeric and combine well.
Place the chicken pieces into the large pot with the onions and sear on each side until well-browned. Add salt, pepper, and a dash of cinnamon and mix so that the chicken is coated. Add pomegranate-walnut mixture to the pot, mix well, and add water to cover chicken by 2 inches.
Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for two hours, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has a rich and creamy consistency. Add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Mix well, without shredding the chicken, and add more sugar to taste. Serve hot, with basmati rice.
More Middle Eastern-inspired recipes:
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