Recipe: Chicken Fesenjan (Walnut & Pomegranate Stew)

Okay, this just happens to be the best thing I have cooked. EVER. It’s the perfect comfort food for when the nights are cooling down and drawing in!

I had originally bookmarked Amy’s recipe well over a year ago, and then when clearing out my bookmarks I re-found it. Weirdly I had most of the ingredients in the cupboard (trust me, pomegranate molasses isn’t usually on the shelf!) so decided to give it a go – and it’s become a firm favourite. It’s not one for a weeknight as it does take a while, and requires pretty frequent attention, but it’s so worth it for a Saturday night treat.┬áDeeply aromatic and intensely savoury, it’s just so yum!

The soft chicken and onions melt in the mouth, and are covered in a thick and glossy sauce. It’s a simple enough ingredients list, not exactly complicated to make, but the results are stunning. The sauce in particular is so, so tasty – toasty from the walnuts, sour from the molasses with just a hint of sweetness. I’ve added some fragrance and spice to the original recipe to give it more depth of flavour which really works, and cut down on the amount of sugar found because I really don’t think it needed it.

This could also be easily made vegan – the sauce was divine with the cauliflower, so I’d be tempted to miss out the chicken, use a suitable stock and just have that!

Recipe (served 2 greedy people, easily scaled up)

  • 75g walnuts
  • 25g butter
  • 4 skinless and boneless chicken thighs
  • 1-2 white onions, sliced
  • 200ml chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf (dried or fresh)
  • 1/2 tsp runny honey, or more to taste
  • 3 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon each of ground coriander and nutmeg
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh pomegranate seeds

First up, toast your walnuts and allow to cool. I spread mine out on a baking tray and roasted for 10 minutes at 200C (stirring every couple of minutes) until they smelt nutty. Once cool, blitz in a food processor until breadcrumb-like.

Melt half of the butter and fry the chicken thighs over a high heat until golden. Set aside, lower the heat, add the rest of the butter, and gently fry the onions for five or soft minutes until softened. Add the chicken back to the back along with the stock, pop the lid on the pan and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the ground walnuts to the pan gradually, stirring well until smooth. Stir in the bay, honey, molasses, and spices, then allow to cook on a very low heat (I used the ‘2’ setting on our temperamental electric hob) for around an hour. You’ll need to stir every five or so minutes to stop the mix from catching on the bottom. Once it’s done the sauce will be rich in flavour – taste and adjust for seasoning and sweetness. We preferred ours slightly more sour, but add more honey if you like. Garnish with the pomegranate seeds before serving.

We served this with brown rice and roasted Za’atar cauliflower (toss cauli in oil, salt and pepper, roast for 15 mins, drizzle with a little balsamic and za’atar, add the cauliflower leaves and then roast for another 10-15 minutes until tender and lightly charred). Sprinkled with some pomegranate seeds for another texture, burst of freshness and (let’s be honest here) to make this dish more Instagrammable and you’ve got my current favourite meal.

What’s your go-to comfort food meal?