Name: Elizabeth Taeed
Class Year: 2009
Country of Residence: Portugal
Why is this recipe great? What’s its backstory?
My husband is half Persian and raised in the Bahai faith, and grew up eating this stew on special occasions. He shared it with me on our first date, we served it at our wedding, and now we make it whenever there is an important holiday, festival or event. I am excited to share it now, as we are between two important Bahai festivals: the inter-calary days Ayyám-i-Há (4-5 days between the last two months of the year, which allow the Bahai calendar to be solar, and happen every year at the end of February) and Naw-Rúz (the Bahai and Iranian New Year, which occurs at the spring solstice). This dish is made and served in Iran on all sorts of special occasions, but is primarily an autumn dish due to its main two ingredients: pomegranates and walnuts. The secret is low and slow cooking to release the oils from the walnuts, and using duck instead of chicken for extra celebration. It is delicious served with saffron basmati rice with a crispy bottom (tahdeeg) and a side of Mast-o-khiar (yoghurt mixed with shredded cucumber, minced mint leaves, and celery salt).
Fesenjoon (Persian Pomegranate & Walnut Stew)
Serves 4-5. Takes approx. 1.5-4 hours (1.5 hours if you already have pomegranate concentrate)
2-3 Tbs Vegetable oil
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
1-1.25 cups Pomegranate concentrate (the sweet version is better). If you can’t find this (it’s not common!) you can buy ~2 litres of pomegranate juice (from concentrate is okay, but make sure there’s no added sugar) and boil it down until you have a glossy syrup.
2-2.5 cups walnuts
¼ cup cold water
1kg duck legs
Walnut oil (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Pan fry the onions until golden and crispy. This will take 10-15 minutes if not longer.
While the onions are cooking, add walnuts to a food processor and puree. Add the water and blend until it becomes a uniform light beige colour. Don’t worry about mixing too long – you want this to be a super smooth paste.
In a large stock pot, arrange your duck legs and spread over the golden onions. Then spoon over the walnut mixture, and finally add your pomegranate syrup/concentrate. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Bring to a boil, being very careful not to burn the pomegranate syrup, then reduce heat to medium low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
Reduce heat to low and simmer for another hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so to prevent anything sticking and burning.
Your fesunjoon is done when the duck is falling off the bone and the sauce has melted into one glorious taste explosion with the sweet/sour pomegranate and the rich walnut flavours balancing each other perfectly.
Serve over rice with a side of yoghurt, drizzle with walnut oil and sprinkle over a handful of whole pomegranate seeds. Prepare to be sent to taste bud heaven!
2 cups Basmati rice
3 cups water
Generous salt and vegetable oil
Pinch of saffron
Wash your rice thoroughly. If you have plenty of time, soak it for half an hour before cooking.
Combine all ingredients in a non-stick pot, the broader the base the better.
Cover and bring to a boil, then drop to your lowest flame.
Cook on low for ~45 minutes or until the bottom of the rice is golden brown.
When finished, spoon out as much rice as you can into a bowl, then hold a plate over the pot and turn it over. A stunningly beautiful basket of golden crispy rice (tahdeeg) should reward your patience.
1.5 cups Thick Greek yoghurt
Handful of mint leaves (dried mint will also do)
Pinch of celery salt
Grate your cucumber as finely as possible, put it in a sieve and drain for as much time as you have. The drier the better.
Mix cucumber, yoghurt, finely chopped mint leaves and celery salt.
Source: Adapted from https://persianmama.com/chicken-in-walnut-pomegranate-sauce-khoresht-fesenjan with help and advice from my in-laws