Here’s a shared recipe from Northern Iran. The combination of ground walnuts, pomegranate and chicken sounds equally interesting and flavoursome.
400g raw walnut halves
4-6 cups water
6 tablespoons pomegranate paste or molasses (available in Middle Eastern grocery stores)
1 onion, coarsely grated
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
500-700g chicken pieces (4-6 pieces preferably with bones and skin off)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
3-4 saffron threads
2 tablespoons lemon juice (optional)
1/2 teaspoon golpar (optional, available in Middle Eastern grocery stores)
1) Using a mortar and pestle or food processor grind walnuts finely until sticky, but do not over-process.
2) In a large saucepan or casserole add the walnuts, 4 cups of water, pomegranate and stir until well combined.
3) Add onion, pepper, salt, turmeric and stir. Place the saucepan or casserole over medium heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stir frequently to avoid burning. Once the sauce has darkened in colour (a result of the oil released from the walnuts) add chicken pieces and vegetable oil, stir to coat. Allow to simmer and cook gently for 1.5 hours, adding remaining water as necessary and gently stirring to prevent scorching.
4) Add tomato paste, saffron, lemon juice, golpar and simmer for a further 30 minutes.
Note: If you prefer no bones take out chicken pieces from stew before adding other ingredients and remove skin and bones, shred the meat and return to stew.
5) Adjust seasoning if necessary, add more salt or lemon depending on your taste. If you prefer it sweet add a pinch of sugar. The end result will be a thick sauce, rich brown in colour. Serve with plain or saffron basmati rice.
- In the north of Iran this recipe is sour, other regions prefer a sweet and sour flavour, the taste will depend on the type of pomegranate paste.
- Although not traditional I think this recipe would work with a scattering of fresh pomegranate.