Tuesday 21 September 2010

Fesanjoon - Persian chicken with Walnut and Pomegranate Sauce.

Here's the recipe for Fesanjoon (or Fesanjan) - Persian chicken cooked in a walnut and pomegranate sauce. It's probably one of the easiest Persian dishes to cook and yet somehow seems one of the most luxurious. But you do really need to get traditional Pomegranate Molasses to get the authentic taste, a mildly sweet/sour flavour.

You can find Pomegranate Molasses in Iranian Delicatessens and even some supermarkets ranging from Sainsbury's and Waitrose to Harrods amazing Food Hall. Obviously the price depends on where you source it, but Melbury & Appleton who run a little independent deli in Muswell Hill, North London have a classy online store and sell it for £2.99 for a 3ooml bottle and they ship worldwide. You may find it called Robe Anar which is the Persian (Farsi name) or
Dibs-Al-Rumman which I think is Israeli.

To make Fesanjan for four people you will need:
  • A small free-range chicken that has been skinned and jointed, or a chicken portion per person
  • 200-250grams of finely ground walnuts
  • Pomegranate Molasses
  • One large or two medium sized onions finely chopped
  • Mildly flavoured oil like groundnut for frying
  • Honey
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Fry the onion in the oil until golden brown but not quite caramelised
  • Add the chicken portions and brown
  • Add the ground walnuts and fry for a further couple of minutes, stirring all the time to ensure the mixture doesn't stick and burn
  • Cover all the ingredients with boiling water remembering that this will be cooking for at least an hour, so add enough
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Add pomegranate molasses to the liquid and give it a good stir. At this stage, after you've added the molasses it should be a pale golden brown colour as you can see in the image below.

  • Cover the pan and simmer for a long time until the liquid has reduced and the sauce is much darker in colour. I find a Le Creuset, or similar cast iron casserole or saucepan is ideal for making this. Leave for at least an hour simmering like this, ideally two or more. Checking every so often to ensure it doesn't stick.
  • Depending on the quality of the molasses syrup used and the sweetness of the pomegrantates it was made from, you may like to add a little runny honey while it continues to cook. Some recipes ask for sugar but I think you can taste the sugar in the food. Honey somehow melds in more easily and becomes part of the flavour. It's up to your own taste but it should have a lovely sweet/sour flavour but not overly so...mmm

Fesanjoon/jan is traditionally served with boiled then steamed Basmati rice. Then afterwards fruit such as pomegranates or oranges are eaten. This is to balance the 'heat' of the food.

An important part of Persian diet is the balance between 'hot' and 'cold' foods. Fesanjoon contains lots of walnuts and honey which are both classified as hot foods whereas citrus fruits and pomegranates are cold so the whole meal is balanced perfectly. It's thought that if this balance isn't correct it can cause ill health.

From my experience Persian food isn't difficult to make but you do require the correct ingredients and often patience chopping lots of herbs or waiting for food to cook. I learned at my mother-in-law (an amazing cook's) elbow. I watched her, listened to her instructions, a word in English, twenty in Farsi and hundreds of gestures, made notes and then tried them out for myself. Fortunately my husband followed in her footsteps and he's an awesome cook too.

Besides rooting through my countless handwritten notes or recipe's I've found a gem in The Legendary Cuisine of Persia by Margaret Shaida. Margaret Shaida was born in England and married an Iranian man and went to live in Tehran in 1955. Like me she learned Persian cooking from her mother-in-law friends and family. Her book written in 1992 has been like a bible to me. Not only does she provide the recipes but also alternative ingredients if the original ones are hard to find, a great glossary, list of hot and cold foods, background history to the dishes as well as social and traditional aspects of this amazingly rich cuisine.


  1. Sounds delicious. I'm going to try it as soon as I track down some pomegranate molasses. I found some pumpkin seed oil the other day in a health food shop and thought of you. I din't have time to buy it as I was rushing out of the shop but will go back and get some so I can make some of your delicious summer salads.

  2. I hope you manage to Caz I'm sure you'll all love it....it shouldn't be too difficult to track down and if you get stuck Melbury & Appleton ship worldwide.

    It's so easy that probably the most difficult thing will be getting the molasses!!

  3. Wonderful post, thanks so much for sharing the recipe!