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Fesenjān | Persian Chicken Stew With Pomegranate and Walnuts

Khoresh-e Fesenjān or Fesenjoon is the most popular globally loved Persian stew prepared with meat or poultry with two main ingredients - walnuts and pomegranate molasses! I would have never known this dish unless I saw the bottle of pomegranate molasses everywhere and like a curious cat picked and learnt about this dish! 

Fesenjoon | Persian Chicken Stew With Pomegranate and Walnuts

Ingredients used in Fesenjoon


  • Chicken: Use skinless thighs or drumsticks. Avoid using breasts.  
  • Onion: white or red
  • Walnuts
  • Pomegranate molasses or concentrate 

What does Fesenjen taste like?

It is soury-tangy with a hint of sweet, both flavour coming from tangy-sweet pomegranate molasses. The walnuts paste adds a wonderful nutty taste and makes a rich sauce adding body and texture to the chicken stew. And the slow-cooked chicken gets soft soaking up all the flavour in while rendering stock into the stew making it finger-licking good! 

What is the best substitute for Pomegranate Molasses?

Pomegranate molasses also called dibis ramman is a syrup derived from the reduced pomegranate juice with or without sugar, to a thick, intensely flavoured syrup. It is tangy and sweet like tamarind. Yes, Tamarind is the closest best alternative I can recommend but if you can only find grape molasses, then you can use that too. Always start adding little and adjust as per taste. You may also make at home by cooking down and reducing pomegranate juice or even cranberry juice. 

How to make Fesenjan?

I adapted the recipe from The Unmanly Chef. From what I read, Fesenjan needs love and care and cannot be rushed through for quick dinners. So resolve to make this only when you have ample time and know you will be serving hungry tummies!
  1. prepare the walnut paste
  2. use only butter and olive oil 
  3. brown the chicken pieces
  4. fry the onion slices
  5. Add rest of the ingredients 
  6. Slow cook stirring until chicken is soft and stew is browned (almost 45mins to 1 hour)
  7. Serve with Persian rice (saffron or turmeric rice)
Slow cooking is the key to developing the colour and taste of this stew. The walnut paste and molasses tend to stick or burn quickly, so stir the stew every 10 minutes. The end result is a sweet and sour concoction that goes well with rice or bread! But rice is recommended! 

Fesenjān | Persian Chicken Stew With Pomegranate and Walnuts

These pictures are from my recent recreation of this dish and I have tweaked the recipe technique. With this, my bottle of molasses is over!

If any of you have a bottle of molasses and thinking how to use it up, just add them in place of tamarind pulp - I have made south Indian tomato rasam, tamarind chutney, thakkali mulagittathu and even in marinades. There are ample ways to incorporate the pomegranate molasses into our Indian dishes so it is not a buy once and never use again thing.

So, next time you go to the supermarket, pick a bottle of Pomegranate Molasses and make Fesenjan! If you can't locate molasses, you can try using Pomegranate Concentrate which is less sour and more diluted than Molasses so you may have to use more quantity.

Fesenjoon | Persian Chicken Stew With Pomegranate and Walnuts

Fesenjān | Persian Chicken Stew With Pomegranate and Walnuts

INGREDIENTS

For the walnut paste:
1 cup walnut halves
2 tablespoons water

For the chicken stew:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
tablespoons olive oil
550 grams boneless chicken thighs, pat dried completely
1 large onion, chopped finely 
Prepared walnut paste
1/2 cup pomegranate molasses
1 cup of water 
1/4 teaspoon  turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper powder
to 2 teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste

For garnish:
Fresh pomegranate arils 

METHOD

Make the Walnut paste:
  1. Toast the walnuts until fragrant and let it cool 
  2. Transfer the walnuts into a mixie or food processor and pulse for a few times until it resembles bread crumbs
  3. Add some water and grind the paste until it lightens in colour
  4. Keep aside for later
Prepare the Fesenjoon stew:
  1. Heat some butter and olive oil in a thick-bottomed pot
  2. Roast the chicken thighs until golden brown on all sides
  3. Transfer the chicken to a plate and keep aside
  4. Add the chopped onions and sauté until golden brown with a dash of salt
  5. Add the walnut paste, pomegranate molasses, water, turmeric powder, salt and pepper 
  6. Drop the chicken pieces into the stew and season with salt 
  7. Add the sugar and bring the stew to boil on medium to high flame
  8. Reduce the flame to low once it boils
  9. Cover and cook for another 45 to 1 hour stirring every 10 minutes until the stew develops a dark colour 
  10. Transfer to a serving plate and garnish with pomegranate 
  11. Serve with saffron rice or bread
NOTES:
  • For the first half-hour, you may slide a flat pan or heat diffuser under the pot which will prevent the stew from sticking and getting burnt in the bottom of the pan. But to develop a dark colour, it is best to have the pot under the direct flame. 
  • Do not add any more water 
Fesenjoon | Persian Chicken Stew With Pomegranate and Walnuts

I love the fact that this dish involves just one chopping task - onions. By the time the stew is done,  the chicken melts so easily that it becomes a thick gravy. This is usually had with Persian rice, but here I made it for my dinner chapatis and it was so yum! I kept tasting it several times to believe it was indeed tasty.

We enjoyed our dinner with "unbelievable" face! Like how can something taste so good!

More Pomegranate Molasses recipes?

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Fesenjān | Persian Chicken Stew With Pomegranate and Walnuts

Images and Recipe updated in Jan 2020. 

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