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POM-tastic Koresht - e -Fesenjan!

Recently, I was sent a case of POM Wonderful juice by the company to taste and test recipes. As soon as I was told I was getting the product, I started dreaming up things to make with it. And, the first thing that popped into my head was Fesenjan, the rich Iranian special occasion dish made with pomegranate molasses and walnuts.

There used to be a lovely Iranian restaurant in Bangalore, named Sufi (now closed) that served Fesenjan on special orders. You had to call in a day ahead and let them know if you wanted to order it. No, no, it does not take that long to make but the flavors in the dish develop and mature the longer it sits and overnight is the minimum recommended. All these elaborate arrangements coupled with the fact that it is a dish reserved for occasions, in Iran, just drew the mystic aura around it and I wanted to recreate that at home. :)

Now, I love pomegranates. I remember my mother lovingly peeling the rind and cartilage off the fruit for her dearest daughter (that's Me..). Interestingly, this is one of those things that is also very good for you (what a lucky coincidence!). It is full of antioxidants and is beneficial to cardio-vascular health. You can read more about the health benefits of POM Wonderful juice here.

So, back to the Fesenjan. It really is a very simple dish getting it's flavors primarily from the ground walnuts and pomegranate reduction. The toasted walnuts are slightly bitter and the pomegranate is sweet and tangy at the same time. As the pomegranate juice reduces, the sweetness gets enhanced. The resulting gravy is rich, deep and yet subtle in flavor. I made it with chicken as it is traditionally made. You can also use lamb or beef.

Yes, I get the irony. Fesenjan is not a heart friendly dish but I do think it showcases the pomegranate very well indeed! :)

For more recipes using POM, please check out their website.

Koresht - e - Fesenjan

Fesenjan tastes better the longer it sits, atleast overnight. So, try to be patient and plan ahead.
It is important to cook the sauce until the oil renders from the nuts.

1-1/2 lbs chicken bone-in thigh and leg meat
1 large onion, sliced thin
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 lb walnuts, toasted and ground
3-1/2 cups POM wonderful pomegranate juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1-2 T sugar (depending on taste and sweetness of juice)
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
2 T lime juice
salt and pepper to taste
3 T olive oil

Brown chicken pieces in a heavy bottomed pan in 2 tablespoons of oil. Remove and reserve. Add some more oil and saute onions until soft. Add the garlic and saute for a few more minutes. Season with salt, pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg and fry for a minute.

Mix in the walnut paste into the onion mixture. Add the browned chicken pieces and toss to coat with the walnut and onion mixture. Stir in the pomegranate juice. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer for atleast an hour until the sauce is thickened, the walnuts release their oil and the sauce has reduced to about half the original volume.

Stir in lemon juice and sugar according to taste. Adjust seasoning if needed. Continue cooking for a 20 more minutes. A minute or two before taking off the heat, mix in the ground cardamom.

Let cool to room temperature and refrigerate overnight. Next day, if the sauce is too thick, stir in 1/2 cup of warm water and bring to boil. Serve over hot white rice, garnished with walnuts. I would have sprinkled some fresh pomegranate as well, but I did not have any on hand.

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