Khoresht Fesenjan originates from the Caspian region of Iran and is as old as the Persian people. It’s traditionally cooked with duck or chicken, but vegans around the world have adopted this and made it their own. The sauce is definitely one to add to your vegan or vegetarian list of sauces.
It’s a great dish to add to this blog, because Persian cuisine has influenced many aspects of Indian cuisine, including my absolutely favourite – dhansak!
This is great recipe if you’ve bought pomegranate molasses to make dips such as muhammara (recipe to come later!) and wondering what to do with the remainder!
This is an adaptable dish and some of the ingredients you can simply eliminate.
For example, the turmeric is used during cooking the meat as according to Ariana Bundy (a US/Iranian TV chef), Iranians use turmeric during cooking to mask the meat smell!
Not all recipes use pomegranate juice; I got this when watching Ariana’s YouTube demo of how to make the traditional version of this dish.
The website Turmeric & Saffron just simply uses plain water, presumably because you’re going to get a lot of flavour from both the walnuts and the molasses.
The most challenging aspect of this dish is ensuring you do not burn the walnut when you’re frying as walnuts are already brown and so you’re looking for a subtle change in colour. It shouldn’t take much longer than 5 or 6 minutes of frying for them to turn, but you do need to move them about continuously.
Otherwise, this is a simple dish, and one I think could be cooked relatively quickly mid-week. If you don’t have a food processor, then I would put the walnuts into a sealable plastic food bag and then use a rolling pin (or large tin of vegetables or coconut milk or whatever you have) and crush them that way.
I guess it’s probably debateable whether this dish constitutes as curry or not. It is featured in Atul Kochhar’s Curries of the World – so that’s good enough for me.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 carrot peeled and chopped
- 1 squash or pumpkin peeled, deseeded, cut and roasted
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tbsp lemon juice optional
- 1 tsp peppercorns crushed
- 200 g walnuts
- 100 g pomegranate seeds
- 250 ml pomegranate juice or use vegetable stock if you prefer or can't get pomegranate juice
- 1-2 tbsp dark brown sugar optional
- 3 tbsp pomegranate molasses or pomegranate paste; should be easy to get in larger supermarkets or delicatessen/health food shop. Or a shop that sells middle Eastern food
- 1 pinch saffron optional
- 0.25 tsp turmeric optional
Ground the walnuts using a food processor or a pestal and mortar, depending on what you have available.
Heat the oven and roast the squash or pumpkin until it's starting to blacken and gives just a little resistence when you slide a knife into it. Don't over cook squash or it will become far too soft.
In a dry pan, fry the walnuts ensuring that you move them about continuously to prevent them from burning. You're looking for a darkish golden brown colour. Remove from the pan as soon as they're done to prevent them from continuing to fry in the hot pan.
Using the same pan, heat the oil and fry the onions and carrot until the onions start to turn translucent.
Add the pomegranate juice, pomegranate molasses, cinnamon, walnuts and bring to a boil. You will need to add water/stock to loosen up the sauce.
Add sugar gradually, tasting as you go along. You're looking for a sweet/sour balance, and depending upon how sour your molasses is, you may need to add either more or less sugar. If it's too sweet, you can use lemon juice to turn up the sourness.
Cook for about 15- 20 minutes, loosening the gravy with water as it reduces. Keep checking for the sweet/sour balance. Add about half teaspoon of rock salt and a good twist of a black pepper grinder. Add the saffron now if you're going to use it.
Serve with rice.
Seb is a nutritionist registered with the Association for Nutrition and a writer specialising in plant-based nutrition and men’s health. He graduated from Chester University with a masters degree in human nutrition and loves discovering new and vibrant plant-based recipes.