(pomegranate and walnut sauce)

A quintessentially Persian dish, the sweet-and-sour flavour of fesenjan comes from the glorious combination of rich, ground walnuts and tangy pomegranate molasses. The meat and sauce are cooked separately and combined a little before serving, and variations can include seared duck breasts, poached chicken or my mother’s preferred combination, tiny lamb meatballs. Serve with aromatic, light-as-air saffron basmati rice and garnish with fresh pomegranate seeds and angelica powder, if you can find it. Depending on the brand of pomegranate molasses* you choose, it may be more sweet or sour, so you’ll need to adjust this recipe to get the right sweet-and-sour balance that suits your palate. This is my father’s recipe, and he insists on tasting and adjusting it at least a dozen times as he cooks, which why his version always turns out perfectly balanced, both savoury and sweet-sour.

  • 2 c (500 g) ground walnuts
  • 4-5 T pomegranate molasses
  • water
  • juice of half a lemon
  • sugar, to taste
  • salt, to taste
  • fresh pomegranate seeds, angelica powder*, saffron water (optional garnish)

Grind whole walnuts to a coarse crumb in a food processor.

Toast the ground walnuts in a large stockpot on low-medium heat, until golden, about 5-10 minutes. Watch it closely as it can easily burn.

Add 1 c water to the walnuts and bring to a simmer. As it thickens, add another cup of water, stirring often, every 10-15 minutes, and continue to simmer on low-medium heat. Repeat adding water, akin to gradually adding stock to risotto, until the walnuts have cooked fully, and a layer of walnut oil forms in the pot, about 2-3 hours.

Add 3 T pomegranate paste, lemon juice and 1 T sugar. Season to taste. Taste and adjust the balance of sweet and sour to your liking. Some Persians prefer it more sour than sweet.

Add the cooked chicken, lamb meatballs or duck to the sauce.

Right before serving, add saffron water and stir in gently.

Garnish with angelica powder if using, and pomegranate seeds.

Serve with steamed saffron rice. Serves 6-8.