It’s good to be back after a nice trip away. Divonne, near the Swiss border and Geneva. It was lovely, thanks for asking. I’ll be doing something on this a France a bit later, but I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while now:
A little while back a friends of ours asked if we fancied a Persian supper club. Well, yes, of course we did. I must admit to being fairly ignorant to food from this region and so jumped at the chance.
It was only when we were given the address that, I became a bit unsure. Thinking it was a special event at a restaurant I was suprised to find out it was actually at someones house. Now, being a ‘reserved’ kind of chap this made me a bit uneasy. Other than the guys I knew who else would be there? My God, what if I to chat to someone boring? Worse, what if I bored them?
Of course I’m an idiot. The whole evening was excellent and as it turned out, the only couple we didn’t know there were lovely.
The chef and supper club proprietor for the evening was Afsaneh, who I was delighted to find out made the latter stages of Masterchef last year. The menu was based on food from her native Iran and if you think you’ve had big portions I’d advise you to think again.
She actually has a website called Afsaneh’s Persian Kitchen with the details – I do recommend you try it if you’re in the area.
The food was excellent, varied and oh so plentiful. The assortment of Hors d’oeuvres, starters, breads, rice dishes and grains accompanying the meat dishes was amazing and God only knows how hard Afsaneh and team must have been worked to produce the banquet. And then there was the dessert, mint tea and petit fours. A hell of a feat.
So spurred on, I thought I’d try and recreate one of the evenings favourite dishes which, I think we all agreed, was Khoresh Fesenjan, a thick stew made from ground walnuts and tangy pomegranate molasses (to be honest though it was all good, I’ll be trying the others later…). I read around and found a few variations and borrowed bits from them. Otherwise though it isn’t a long ingredients list.
Pomegranate molasses is made from concentrated pomegranate juice, and is a wickedly tangy, sweet and sour condiment. The ground walnut make this a thick and deceptively filling meal on its own. You don’t need much.
I served this with some saffron rice. I think its more authentic to bake the rice until the bottom is a nice golden brown, so I’ll try this next time.
Serves 4. Easily.
- 200g walnuts
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 chicken thighs, I used boneless and skinless
- 1 onion, finely sliced
- 300ml chicken stock
- 50ml pomegranate molasses (or to taste)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp dried pomegranate seeds
- 150g basmati rice
- A pinch of saffron
- A little brown sugar, again to taste
- Salt and pepper
Start by toasting the walnuts in a pan, being careful not to burn them. Allow to cool.
In a casserole pot, fry the onions in the oil until softened. Add the chicken to brown (in batches) with salt and pepper. Once done, add 100ml of stock and the bay leaves and simmer with the lid on until just cooked through. Strain the stock and pour back with the rest and reserve the chicken and onion.
Blend the walnut until a coarse powder. Reserve a few and coarsely chop them for a bit of texture, which I liked. Pour 200ml of the stock into the pot and bring to a simmer. Stir in the walnuts to make a thick paste. The oil will begin to rise to the top – keep stirring it. Add the pomegranate molasses. I suggest you add little by little to taste as it is quite powerful and sharp. 50ml was about right for me in this case.
Add the sugar to balance the flavours and then return the chicken and onions. Simmer with the lid on for an hours, adding a little of the remaining stock to loosen if too thick. Season with salt.
Cook the rice as you normally would. I use the absorbtion method, using twice the amount of water to rice in a shallow pan. Add some hot water to a bowl and blanch the saffron to colour and flavour it. Add this to the rice towards the end of cooking.