Fesenjoon Stew

I cannot believe I have not included khoresh fesenjoon خورشت فسنجون in my Iranian stews yet!  This traditional stew, made primarily with ground walnuts and pomegranate paste or molasses, with a sweet-sour taste, deep aroma and rich flavor is quite unique among other Iranian stews and is regarded a fancy dish served at special occasions and for special guests.

A specialty of Northern Iran, fesenjoon is traditionally cooked using duck meat. Nowadays people use chicken breast or tights instead. Or for a vegan version simply skip the meat step and still get a rich and flavorful stew.  There are certainly more than one method in making a good fesenjoon, but below is just one of them!

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 large onion, chopped in small squares
  •  2 medium skinless chicken breast (about 1 kg), washed and chopped
  • 2 & 1/2 walnut halves, passed through food processor (see below)
  • ½ – ¾ cup pomegranate paste, depending on how thick and sour it is (see below)
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron powder diluted in 1 tbsp. warm water
  • 2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. fresh pomegranate seeds (optional for topping)
  • Salt to taste

Method:

Pass walnuts through a food processor or blender and process until you get fine clumps (or coarse powder).

Add the grained walnuts in a dry frying pan. Sauté over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until you get a caramel color and can feel the smell of the walnut emanating from the skillet. Stir constantly and be careful not to burn the walnuts.

Add 2 and 1/2 cups of lukewarm water to the frying pan and mix. Cover with the lid and reduce to minimum setting.  Simmer for 20 minutes.

In a medium size pot, warm oil and add chopped onions. Fry until translucent. Add chicken pieces and fry until all sides of the chicken pieces change color. Add salt, pepper and turmeric and continue frying for another 2 minutes.

Add walnut paste to the main pot and simmer for half an hour with half closed lid ; leave a wooden spoon touching the bottom of the pot all the time.

Add pomegranate paste to the main pot and simmer for another half an hour.  Taste for adjustment. Your fesenjoon should taste sour-sweet.  Depending on the brand of the pomegranate paste you have used and also depending on your own preference you might need to add a bit more pomegranate paste for added sourness.  Or you might need to stir in brown sugar to get more sweetness.

Also, at this stage your stew should look settled, dark and thick. If not, close the lid and simmer for another 20 minutes. Five minutes before serving, add saffron liquid.  This would be for extra aroma and a deeper darker color.

You could always garnish with fresh red pomegranate seeds.

Serve hot with plain or saffron rice cooked Iranian style and enjoy this flavorful, rich and majestic Iranian dish!


Baghlava for Norooz

Once again Norooz, “new day”, spring, the Persian New Year is upon us; so is the earth’s rejuvenation and the hope! Hope for more sun, more warmth, more kindness, more peace – hope for better days.  It is that time of the year we prepare for our new year by doing a lot of things including baking delicacies for our new year sofreh.

This year I decided to try my hands on a rather complicated homemade sweet, called baghlava, باقلوا in Persian – an extremely delicious walnut-almond rich layers brought together by fragrant honey-rosewater syrup.

Read the rest of this entry »


Spicy Pan Kebab, kabab tabeh کباب تابه 

Living in the minus double digits for a few months by this time of the year, I miss so many things including my charcoal burning barbecue and all the goodies that get roasted and cooked on it during the summer evenings in company of good friends and lots of cool drinks!  I specially miss our kebab making rituals around it although to tell the truth my family eats red meat now, only once in two weeks or so.

If, like me, you crave kebab koobideh, and are ready to settle for a pot version of it, this post is for you.  The basic idea is the same as in original koobideh, only we spread the big meatball instead of dividing it into small balls and then skewering them. This means you will not need to worry about kebab holding on to the skewers while being roasted which means, in turn, we can play around with the ingredients.  You will note that in my new recipe for Pan kebab koobideh below, I have added lots of spices in addition to the grated tomatoes and garlic to the ground beef.  I believe with this kebab what lacks in ambiance, it definitely makes up in the taste! Read the rest of this entry »


Vase ideas10

The much needed winter blooms!


Pomegranate soup, Aash-e anar, for Yalda

Once again Yalda, one of Iranian’s much loved and cherished celestial moments and rituals is round the corner. We celebrate Yalda on winter solstice on Dec. 20th  as the longest and darkest night of the year by getting together, reciting poetry and feasting over a colorful spread of dried fruits and nuts, aajil, specific fruits namely pomegranate, persimmon and watermelon, cozy heartwarming dishes and lots of light, hope and energy to get through the long but increasingly brighter winter ahead. See my precious posts for Yalda night here and here.

The Persian “Pomegranate Soup” or ash-e anar آش انار, will forever resonate with me the excellent culinary fiction by the same name written by Marsha Mehran, an eloquent Iranian-Irish author who passed too soon but whose novels depicted Persian cuisine enchanting as a fairy-tale full of texture, fragrance and mystery always ready to haut, charm and welcome those unfamiliar with it. Read the rest of this entry »


Tahchin, Persian upside down yogurt-saffron rice with chicken

Tahchin ته‌چین is a traditional Persian dish which is very unique in its taste and texture – a dense dish flavored with yogurt, saffron and thick yogurt and typically layered with chicken chunks.  The delicious thick golden rice crust (tahdig) formed at the bottom and around the cooked tahchin is its shining feature.

An original tahchin is stem-cooked in a pot (a non-stick one in this case) over gas or electric stove just like any other Persian mix rice; however since the amount of liquid in the rice makes its cooking behaviour a bit different and complicated, a lot of recipes advise you to “bake” the dish instead using Pyrex dishes in the oven. Well, I never went with baking style and after many years of trying and failing the traditional pot style, last summer I finally succeeded in getting it right – thanks to my beloved auntie visiting form my old hometown Shiraz. Read the rest of this entry »


One-Bowl Vegan, GF Fruits-Nut Muffins

I ran into this gluten free, vegan recipe for carrot-banana-apple-walnuts muffins on Minimalist Baker and absolutely loved it.  The list of ingredients may look long, but the preparation is much easier than your average cake or muffin and the result is tender, fruity sweet muffins with the added chewiness of walnuts and oats.

I tried both non-vegan (with 1 egg) and vegan (with flax eggs) versions and both turned equally nice. Actually, I was very excited to have found a substitute for egg and quite impressed by how well flax eggs worked to stick everything together in these muffins. Read the rest of this entry »