Fesenjān | Persian Chicken Stew

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Pomegranate! I am sure everyone avoids it for the peeling task! I love that chore too.. Back home we had our own pomegranate tree but the fruit had hard seeds and it used to be unpleasant and tangy so we used to add dash of sugar to consume it. At fruit shops these were always highly priced and Dad used to buy occasionally when good ones were available. I think nowadays fruit market is so widespread that I am sure all kinds of exotic fruits are available even in small towns. In Yanbu, I never used to buy these because of the strenuous work involved in getting the jewels out without hurting them. But when I got to know it is F's favourite fruit, it gets added to the list and I enjoy peeling and getting the pearls out. Anything for the loved ones right?

We find Egyptian, Yemeni and Indian produce at the markets here and we have tried all three and loved the Yemeni which was more expensive than the rest. Recently we started seeing Spain produce which happens to be better than Yemeni.  I never knew there were different types of Pomegranate until I came to Yanbu. It was raining Pomegranate molasses all over the social media and honestly it never interested me and wonder what put me off. Then the fruit started disappearing from the markets and in the same time, there are bottles of the molasses showing up on supermarket shelves.. so I picked it up thinking "lets give it a try".

Coming to today's recipe: Fesenjān is a Persian stew made with ground walnut and pomegranate molasses with or without chicken. I adapted the recipe from here. I have used 1/4 cup almonds because I did not have much walnuts or pecans. I also used just water instead of chicken stock. Though they call this a stew, it is so much like Indian thick gravy with cashew paste.. that totally is not "stew" right? But we loved it.. lousy pictures but divine taste. I did not have fresh ones to garnish.. would have made the picture better. Off to the recipe...



INGREDIENTS:

1 large onion sliced thinly, 
1 tablespoon unsalted butter 
tablespoons olive oil
2 and 1/2 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
3/4 cup walnut 
halves
1/4 cup almonds (you can replace this with walnuts)
500 grams chicken breasts 
1 cup water
tablespoon of brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon  turmeric
1/8 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Salt




METHOD:
  1. Wash and trim excess fat from the chicken breasts. Cut into medium size pieces, pat dry and keep aside in a colander to get rid of any excess water.
  2. Toast the nuts on low heat or in oven until fragrant. Be careful not to burn it. Allow to cool and pulse them in a blender until finely ground. 
  3. In a wide pan, heat 1/2 tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil.
  4. Pat dry the chicken pieces again and place them in the pan. Sprinkle the chicken with salt while they are cooking and cook until golden brown on all sides. This takes time. 
  5. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to remove the chicken from the pan, set aside. 
  6. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Lower the heat to medium low
  7. Add the chopped onions to the pan and sauté until translucent, stirring on occasion 
  8. Add the chicken pieces to the pan with the onions and pour a cup of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
  9. Now, stir in the ground nuts, pomegranate molasses, sugar, and spices. 
  10. Slide a flat pan under this pan as this will prevent the ground nuts from sticking and getting burnt in the bottom of the pan and you can leave it for an half hour or a complete hour stirring only to check. Else, you will need to give full attention through the hour. 
  11. Remove from heat and adjust sugar/salt to taste. 
  12. Garnish with pomegranate seeds. (I did not have them :-(
  13. Serve with rice or like us, with chapatis.. 


I love the fact that this dish involves less chopping work (just the onion) and with the hack I provided, you need not give too much attention while simmering it. Onions, chicken, ground nuts, water/stock, sugar and spices, and the magic ingredient that makes it Fesenjān. By the time it 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 soooooo yum! I kept tasting it several times to believe it was indeed tasty.. like pinching yourself to make sure you weren't dreaming!

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

So now, would you give this a try?

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