Today, I invite you to unravel the mysteries of Khoresht-e Fesenjan – a very special pomegranate and walnut stew.
Khoresht-e Fesenjan’s Aesthetics
Before we make this very brown dish, let me share a personal story and my first encounter with Khoresht-e Fesenjan on a date with H. As I perused the menu, my eyes fell upon Khoresht-e Fesenjan, a dish that, to my untrained eye, looked like a painter’s palette after a mud-wrestling match.
Now, I’m no stranger to love at first sight, but this was more like love at first bite…. In my naivety, I questioned my choice. Little did I realise, Khoresht-e Fesenjan was about to prove that looks can be deceiving.
Never judge a meal by its colour
As I cautiously took the first fork and spoonful, the rich flavours danced on my palate, making me forget all about the initial appearance that had me contemplating a polite emergency exit strategy. Khoresht-e Fesenjan, with its peculiar hue, managed to charm its way into my heart, much like H, whether I’d planned for it or not. So, Khoresht-e Fesenjan taught me never to judge a meal by its colour. Because sometimes, the most unassuming dishes hold the key to a love story.
Fesenjan Face-Off With The Khalehs (Aunties)
Fast forward to my Persian holiday, where every aunt in my husband’s family, all five of them, took it upon themselves to ensure my Fesenjan cravings were satisfied within a week. It turned into a friendly competition among them, each vying to cook the most exquisite version of this dish.
One aunt, in a gesture of unparalleled hospitality, even plucked a fresh chicken from the yard for the sole purpose of crafting the perfect Fesenjan. It was a showdown, a bit like Persian MasterChef, where the aroma of simmering stews wafted through the air. This was a matter of family pride.
Determined to try my hand at this Persian delicacy on British soil, I took it upon myself to make Fesenjan. The culmination of my efforts left my Persian friends genuinely astounded, although I have no idea if they liked it or not.
Now, let’s get down to the recipe. I fondly recall my initial attempt to transform my walnuts into a smooth paste, armed with enthusiasm and a hand blender. My first endeavour resembled a kitchen battle more than a serene cooking session. As I blended away, my hand blender decided to wage war on my unsuspecting palms. Blisters ensued, turning my pursuit of Persian perfection into a hands-on (quite literally) cooking lesson.
Undeterred by my blender-induced battle scars, I decided to give it another shot. This time, armed with a shiny new blender that promised a smoother journey through Walnut Wonderland. But alas, that wasn’t to be either.
When Appliances Rebel, Sparks Fly
As the blades whirred into action, sparks danced, and smoke billowed like a miniature volcano. A dramatic turn of events that led me to the undeniable conclusion: we needed a blender upgrade, or my kitchen appliances might just go on strike.
With newfound determination and a touch of Persian resilience (or sheer stubbornness), I ventured into the Walnut Wonderland once more. This time, the blender behaved like a well-trained kitchen companion, obediently transforming walnuts into a velvety paste H’s khallehs (aunties) would be proud of. In a Persian world, it seems even kitchen appliances demand a bit of drama.
No Room For Frozen Missteps
But here’s where the plot thickens – a lesson learned from a not-so-memorable Persian restaurant venture in Newcastle. In an attempt to cut corners, the restaurant, unfortunately, opted for the frozen-chicken shortcut. The result? A culinary calamity that left H and I less than impressed. The chicken, once frozen, struggled to embrace the golden glow we had come to expect. It would have made H’s khallehs frown.
We vowed never to compromise on the quality of our feathered friends. Fresh, unfrozen, with a dash of water, and an hour in the pan, our chickens left us with a Khoresht-e Fesenjan experience that danced circles around the frozen fiasco of Newcastle. So, here’s to the chicken dance, and a valuable life lesson: when it comes to Persian masterpieces, there’s no room for frozen missteps.
Lost in Translation: Palak, Palak Wisdom (Wait for the bubbles)
As I wrestled with blenders and walnut paste, H, my partner in crime, offered his pearls of wisdom. H’s first words were “Palak Palak” (which translates to bubble, bubble). A phrase that, to my uninitiated ears, sounded more like a dance move than a cooking instruction. Little did I know, H was imparting the secret art of patience, urging me to wait for the walnuts to turn from chunks to a velvety smooth paste.
Armed with this newfound knowledge, I reintroduced the walnut paste to the chicken stock. Together, on medium heat, they had flavours that would make even the most seasoned Ashpaz (chef) applaud. As the mixture bubbled away over an hour and a half, the air was thick with the promise of achievement. H’s khallehs would surely raise an approving eyebrow at the finesse with which their family recipe was unfolding.
Armed with pots, pans, and that authentic Persian touch, I set out on a hunt for pomegranate syrup in the UK. Alas, my search for this was one of frustration. I searched high and low, interrogating bewildered shop assistants with a desperate gleam in my eye. “Pomegranate syrup?”
The responses ranged from sympathetic head shakes to perplexed stares, leaving me contemplating the absurdity of my Pomegranate syrup hunt. It seems that in the UK, pomegranate sauce is the unicorn of condiments. Undeterred by its absence, I made do with the closest substitute I could find. As I slowly added this syrup to my bubbling cauldron, I couldn’t help but imagine the Persian soul inside me performing a bemused jig.
Now at this point, the chicken rejoined the Persian party before the pot was covered, and simmered for a final 10 minutes. The dish was served over warm rice, but the art of rice has to be left for another blog post or this will turn into a novel.
There you have it, my pomegranate memories, Persian pregnancy cravings, and the art of mastering Fesenjan. So, the next time you find yourself surrounded by Persians, surprise them with your Fesenjan prowess, and watch their faces light up with sheer amazement.
Until next time, happy cooking, and may your Fesenjan adventures be as delightful as H’s aunties’ face-off.