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Saucy Solstice Chicken

Celebrate the winter solstice and Persian New Year Iranian style with this darling want and pomegranate stew, called fesenjān. It's rich, heart and full of flavour. The recipe is by Elise Bauer on Simply Recipes.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 2 hours

Makes: 2 servings (or a shame inducing 1 portion)


115g walnuts

1 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tbsp olive oil

450g skinless chicken breast

1 onion

250ml chicken stock

2.5 tbsp pomegranate molasses

1tbsp sugar

Pinch turmeric

Pinch cinnamon

Pinch nutmeg

Grind of black pepper

Salt to taste

Handful pomegranate arils (the seeds silly!!)

1. You walnut skip this step

Get a frying pan toasty hot and scatter your 115g in salt bae style (or maybe carefully add them, you don't want to be finding walnut around the house for years to come...). Toast on a medium high heat for around 8 minutes, or until they are a darker brown and start to smell, well, ultimately better than a raw walnut.. remove from the heat and put in a bowl to cool on the side.

2. How now browned chicken

Chop your 450g chicken breast (probably 2 breasts) into 3cm by 3cm cubes (they don't have to be as perfectly formed as the infamous cubed wombat poo, chunks will do).

Put a large pan on medium high heat and add 1/2tbsp of butter and 1tbsp olive oil. Let it melt down, feel free to play out intimate fantasies of torturing butter and cackle wildly while it simmers out of its solid form.

Once melted, and your evil whims have been satisfied, add your chicken. Cook until browned on all sides. Whilst it's browning, chop an onion. Don't shed any tears you're happy it's the winter solstice!

When the chicken is browned, remove it from the pan, without taking the oil without it - use some tong-ta-tong-tong-tongs. Pop it on a plate to the side.

Lower the heat to medium low, this isn't hell's kitchen after all. Add 1/2 tbsp butter and 1/2 tbsp oil. Add your chopped onion. Let the onion cook down until translucent like Lady Cassandra O'Brien, stirring occasionally, around 8 minutes.

Once the onion is cooked, add the chicken back to the pan also add your 250ml chicken stock. Let it boil then bring it down to simmer and pop a lid on the top. It will cook like this for 30 minutes.

But don't disappear to soon! Now's the perfect opportunity to grind your walnuts into a paste. Tip your cooled walnuts (insert picture of walnut with sunglasses on here) into a food processor or large bowl and blend with your peg leg/ hand blender until ground down like a poor working man. Leaving a few larger chunks is nice for texture later on!

3. Pomegranate you glad to see me

After 30 minutes, return to your simmering stew. Remove the lid and add your ground walnuts, 2 1/2 tbsp pomegranate molasses, 1tbsp sugar, and all the spices: a pinch each of turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Give it a stir and admire the richness of the stew's colour - it looks like it could be on a dulux colour chart under the title rich and delicious (a title I also aspire to).

Pop the lid back on and simmer for a further 1 hour, coming back every 20 minutes to give it a good stir and stop it from sticking. By the end it will be fall apart tender.

After one hour it's time to eat! Serve it with white rice or pilau rice and sprinkle with a handful of pomegranate arils.

And fesendink and fesensink!

Food for Thought

Lizzy says: "What a delightful dish this was. I’m not a big chicken fan, because the texture is always so dry, but boiling the crap of a chicken breast is a great hack, which this recipe makes use of. The chicken was super tender! Also, pomegranate molasses is the ultimate ingredient - you could put it on Boris Johnson and he would probably seem 100x more appetising. The walnut sauce was also a godsend, it gave the gravy/sauce a great texture. I kept going back for more sauce helpings... It may have taken a lot of patience to cook (especially after sampling the sauce before the final hour), but it was worth it! Although perhaps a little on the rich side for me (especially after being in the fridge overnight) 9/10."

Kate says: "My goodness, my chicken. This was a delicious dinner: Rich, unctuous and comforting. The depth that comes from the slow cooking of the chicken and the walnut paste is so. damn. good. And THEN you've got a little added bonus of the pomegranate on top for a hint of freshness and sweetness. Next time I would use chicken thighs instead because they're probably better suited to slow cooking, but nevertheless this is a 10/10 from me."

9.5/10 Gasps


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