When I heard that Ariana Bundy is coming to Ballymaloe for the Literary Festival of Food and Wine, I knew I have to go and meet her. And I did! 🙂
Inspired by Ariana’s talk, I came back to Dublin and finally this weekend cooked her amazingly tasty Khoresht Fesenjan, walnut and pomegranate stew witch chicken.
At the Lit Fest I learnt that thousands of years ago Iran (then Persia) was famous for its exotic and rich cuisine and I tell you, it should be now too!
As Ariana said in Ballymaloe, Iranian food differs to other Middle Eastern cuisines because there’s no chilli and very little garlic. It’s very delicately spiced as Iranians are proud of the freshness of their products. Apparently, there’s also a real science behind Iranian cooking: Unani medicine. Persian physician, Hakim Ibn Sina introduced the Persian people to ‘hot and cold food’ classification through his groundbreaking medical encyclopaedia centuries ago. He believed that people would stay healthy if they balanced the two. This is still integral to Iranian food. “It’s similar to the Chinese yin and yang”, Ariana explained. “Every dish that’s created in Persian cuisine is perfectly balanced. Like Khoresht Fesenjan (walnut and pomegranate stew) for example, the walnuts are hot and the pomegranates are cool.”
Here’s a recipe which comes from Ariana’s latest book “Pomegranates and Roses. My Persian Family Recipes”.
- 250g ground walnuts
- 375ml chicken stock
- 4 chicken breasts
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 200ml pomegranate juice
- 3. tbsp pomegranate molasses (Persian brand only, I got mine at Fallon & Byrne but I know you can order it from The Happy Pear too)
- 1. tsp brown sugar
- 4–5 x 10cm (4in) squares of lavashak – I couldn’t find it so didn’t use it, but I think it’s optional anyway
- pinch of saffron threads, pounded then dissolved in 2 tbsp hot water
- 1 tsp sea salt, plus extra to taste
- twist of pepper
- fresh pomegranate seeds to decorate
Place the ground walnuts in a heavy saucepan and stir constantly over a medium heat until light and golden.
Slightly lower the heat, add the chicken stock, cover and cook for about 20 minutes.
In the meantime, in a frying pan, sear the chicken breasts with the oil, onion, turmeric and pepper until just golden.
Next add to the walnut mixture, cover and cook for a further 30 minutes on the lowest setting.
Finally, add the pomegranate juice, molasses, sugar, lavashak if using, and cook for another 30 minutes with the lid on.
Add the saffron liquid 10 minutes before the end.
The sauce is ready when it’s a lovely dark colour and the chicken is tender.
Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds before serving.
Ariana suggests that if the stew is too sweet, you should add a bit of lemon juice; if it’s too sour, add a tad more sugar.
I hope this recipe will encourage you to fall in love with traditional Persian food just as it encouraged me 🙂