Guinea fowl fesenjan (walnut and pomegranate stew)
- January 2016
- Serves 4-6
- Hands-on time 1 hour, simmering time 1 hour 10 min
A Persian celebration recipe that is full of flavour from cinnamon and fresh herbs with bursts of sweetness from pomegranate seeds.
- Dairy-free recipes
- 42.2g (5.6g saturated)
- 22.2g (19g sugars)
- 300g shelled walnuts
- 1 litre fresh chicken stock
- 1 free-range guinea fowl, jointed into 4-6 pieces (see tips)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 large onions, sliced
- 6 garlic cloves, sliced
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tbsp light brown sugar
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- 125ml pomegranate molasses
- Fresh pomegranate seeds to serve
For the garnish or sabzi
- Picked leaves of fresh herbs: coriander, parsley, tarragon, chives, mint or basil, and sliced spring onions
- Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/ gas 4. Spread the walnuts out on a baking sheet, then toast for 8-10 minutes until golden and fragrant. Whizz for 4-5 minutes in a food processor, scraping down the sides occasionally, until you get a texture similar to smooth peanut butter. Put in a large saucepan with the chicken stock and 1 litre cold water, bring to a simmer, then cook for 45-60 minutes until reduced to half its quantity, stirring often so the walnuts don’t catch on the bottom.
- Heat the oil in a wide, shallow casserole. When hot, season and add the guinea fowl pieces, skin-side down. Fry over a medium-high heat until golden. Flip the pieces, sear the bottoms, then transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining pieces.
- Add the onions to the pan, turn the heat to medium and fry for around 10 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic and fry for 3-4 minutes until fragrant, then stir in the cinnamon, sugar and tomato purée. Cook for another few minutes.
- Pour in the walnut mixture and pomegranate molasses, bring to a gentle simmer, then add the guinea fowl leg pieces only, skin-side up, and cook for 40 minutes. After this time, add the breasts to the pan, making sure everything is tucked in so it can cook evenly. Cook for another 30 minutes or until the guinea fowl is cooked through. Check the sauce every so often while it’s cooking. If it’s getting too dry, add a splash of water/stock and gently stir.
- Once cooked, taste and adjust the seasoning. You’re aiming for a sweet, sharp, savoury balance – it might need a touch more pomegranate molasses, or a bit more sugar. Scatter with the pomegranate seeds and the sabzi, then serve with steamed rice.
The flavour of guinea fowl suits the punchy flavours of this dish. They’re tough little birds, much more difficult to joint than a chicken, so we’d advise asking your butcher to do it. Can’t find guinea fowl? Use chicken instead
Make the stew up to 3 days￼ ￼ in advance, chill and reheat on the hob, adding a glass or two of water to loosen it. Freeze in a container for up to 1 month. Defrost and reheat to serve.
Fesenjan is a Persian dish for celebrations. Although it takes time, it’s easy to make and you’re rewarded with a complex, rich and very special dish.
Sabzi khordan is a typical Persian accompaniment to meals, consisting of plentiful fresh herbs, walnuts, radishes, spring onions and sometimes fresh cheese. It’s usually eaten as a side dish to cleanse the palate, but here we’ve taken the herbs and scattered them over the dish. Not orthodox, but pretty!
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