Fesenjān | Persian Chicken Stew

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Fesenjān is the most popular globally accepted Persian stew prepared with any 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 it nevertheless! 

Fesenjān | Persian Chicken Stew

I never knew there were different types of Pomegranate until I came to Yanbu. Alhamdulillah, here, we find pomegranate of Egyptian, Yemeni, Spain and Indian produce and we have tried all but loved the Yemeni produce. It was raining Pomegranate molasses all over the social media, and then the fruit started disappearing from the markets! I picked a bottle because I am a curious cat lady.




A quick search and Google quickly suggested trying Fesenjān. I adapted the recipe from Simply Recipes and for the second time around I found 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!  

Cooking the element like nuts and molasses can tend to stick or burn quickly, so this needs a close watch and long time but the end result is a sweet, sour, and savoury concoction that goes well with rice or bread! But rice is recommended! 

Fesenjān | Persian Chicken Stew

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 and I am going to reuse it as oil dispenser.

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 rasams, tamarind chutney, thakkali mulagittathu and even in marinades. So there are ample ways to incorporate the pomegranate molasses into our Indian dishes so it is not a waste at all.

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.

Fesenjān | Persian Chicken Stew

INGREDIENTS:

500 grams chicken breasts, washed, fat trimmed and cut into medium sized pieces and pat dried completely
3/4 to 1 cup walnut halves (mix of almonds, walnuts and pine nuts also will do), roasted or toasted, cooled and ground to fine paste
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided 
tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 medium sized onion, thinly sliced 
tablespoon pomegranate molasses
2 cup water or stock
tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon  turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Salt
Fresh pomegranate arils for garnish 




METHOD:

  1. Heat some butter and olive oil in a thick bottomed pot
  2. Pat dry the chicken pieces again and place them in the pan. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper while they are roasting and cook until golden brown on all sides. Transfer the chicken to a plate and keep aside
  3. Add the remaining butter and olive oil and add the chopped onions. Sauté until golden brown. 
  4. Mix in the spices and walnut paste 
  5. Pour the water or stock along with some sugar and let it boil 
  6. Add the pomegranate molasses and adjust the taste accordingly - add more molasses or more sugar or salt or pepper etc. 
  7. Drop the chicken pieces into the pot and stir well and cover the pot
  8. Let the stew simmer gently for 30 minutes to an hour on very low flame until the chicken melts into the stew. 
  9. Garnish with pomegranate seeds. 
  10. Serve with rice or bread
NOTES:
  • Slide a flat pan under the pot which will prevent the ground nuts from sticking and getting burnt in the bottom of the pan. You can leave it for a half hour or a complete hour stirring only to check. 
  • Both the times I tried, I kept the stew consistency to thick to our taste. You can add more water if you want it thinner. 
Fesenjān | Persian Chicken Stew

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 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!

So now, would you give this a try?

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