Khoresh-e fesenjan ba jujeh. That is the Persian name for what we fondly refer to as Fesenjan, a unique combination of pomegranate and walnuts slowly simmered over meat or vegetables. This dish is one of Michael’s favorites. The aroma of it wafting through our boat brought back many childhood memories. To break this dish down further, a khoresh is a stew. It combines meat, poultry, and fish with vegetables, fresh or dried fruits, grains, nuts, plenty of spices and herbs, all cooked over low heat for a long time. The lengthy cooking time enables each of the distinct flavors to meld together into something that can only be called amazing.
I love this recipe! It’s super easy, with minimal prep if you own a food processor and it offers up the most fragrant and flavorful dish you can imagine. It’s versatile as well. Once the sauce is made you can slow cook it with either vegetables or meat for an equally delicious dinner stew. We chose to use the combination of eggplant and butternut squash. Substituting other vegetables, such as zucchini, yellow squash, acorn squash or potatoes would work just as well. I got the recipe from the cookbook New Food of Life, Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies, by Najmieh Batmanglij. Michael’s mom gave us a copy way back in 1998. This cookbook is like no other. Mouth-watering photos accompany poetry and recipes that provide a rich history and insight into the culture of food and people in Persia.
Try it and see. The cookbook uses meat cooked into the stew. I have adapted the recipe to use just vegetables, but if you are a meat eater, just be sure to cube and brown the meat with the onions before adding the starchy vegetable and sauce. Either way you make it, I am sure you will agree that this recipe is something you will want to make again and again. Enjoy!!!
– 2 cups of finely chopped walnuts
– 1/2 cup of Pomegranate paste dissolved in 2.5 cups of water or 1/2 cup of pomegranate syrup mixed with 1/4 cup water. (both of these are found in Middle Eastern specialty stores or in the ethnic section of some grocery stores)
– 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
– 1/4 tsp. of ground saffron dissolved in 1 Tbls. of hot water
– 2 Tbls. of sugar or 1 tbls. of agave nectar (optional)
– 2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
– 5 Tbls. of olive or coconut oil
– 1 tsp. of salt
– 3 cups of your favorite starchy vegetable cubed (Butternut or acorn squash, white or sweet potato/yam)
– 2-3 cups of another vegetable sliced or cubed (Eggplant, cauliflower or carrot)
– 1/2 cup of fresh pomegranate seeds
– 1/4 – 1/2 cup of fresh herbs
– In a food processor, finely grind the walnuts, add the diluted pomegranate paste or sauce, cinnamon and saffron water, mixing well to create a creamy paste. Add a little water and/or pomegranate sauce if too thick. Taste and if too sour, add some of the sugar.
– In a large pot with heavy bottom and lid (or dutch oven), brown the onion in the oil and salt till soft.
– Add the butternut squash and cook till browned on all sides, but not cooked through.
– Add the other vegetables and lightly cook over medium-low heat till coated with oil, a minute or two.
– Add the pomegranate/walnut mixture to the pot of vegetables. Stir with a wooden spoon until all the vegetables are coated in the mixture. At this point if you are not using meat, you may need to add some hot water to the pot to make it more saucy so that it can be covered and cooked for 45 minutes to an hour without burning over low heat, stirring occasionally. Add more pomegranate paste/sauce to sour the taste or more sugar to sweeten it to your preference. (You want the consistency of pasta sauce)
– Transfer the stew to a serving dish and keep covered in a warm oven until ready to serve with rice. Sprinkle some fresh pomegranate seeds and herbs on top of the khoresh when you are ready to serve.
Nush-e jan! (Enjoy!)