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Fesenjan – Duck in Pomegranate and Walnut Sauce

This recipe first caught my eye when I was working on the most recent Rosh Hashana issue of our magazine. I was intrigued by the pomegranate and walnut combo and had to try it out at home. It tasted even better than it sounded! This Persian classic is served in many Jewish Iranian households for special occasions. Anat and Davis David gave us their family recipe complete with a bit of Iranian folklore: A woman hoping to give birth to a son should prepare fesenjan for her husband. 

Ingredients (serves 4-6)
  • 4-6 duck breasts and/or thighs
    For the sauce:
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 6 saffron threads
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 500 g (1 lb) walnuts, coarsely ground
  • 5 tablespoons pomegranate syrup (pomegranate molasses)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
    To serve:
  • chopped parsley and pomegranate seeds 
  1. Heat oil in a large pan and sauté onions until golden.
  2. Crush saffron threads with sugar, mix with 3 cups of water and pour into the pan. Add ground walnuts, bring to a boil, lower the heat and add pomegranate syrup (pomegranate molasses). Stir well and transfer to a bowl. Set aside.
  3. Add duck pieces to the same pan and fry until golden. Pour in the walnut sauce, add water to cover and cook for about 45 minutes until the duck is tender and the sauce is thick and shiny. Towards the end of the cooking cycle taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Up until point this you can make the stew ahead and store refrigerated for up to 2 days.  
  4. When ready to serve, heat gently (you may need to add a bit of water if the sauce is too thick). Serve over white rice. Sprinkle with parsley and fresh pomegranate seeds.

* Use chicken instead of duck.
* Use the same sauce to cook meatballsseason 1 kg (2 lbs 2 ounces) of ground meat (preferably 2/3 beef, 1/3 lamb) with black pepper, salt and nutmeg to taste. Form small balls and add to the sauce (step 3).


Wine Recommendation:

Yarden Syrah 2004, Golan Heights Winery:
This spicy and flavored dish requires a full bodied serious wine. The dish is slightly sour therefore it needs a wine that has a relative moderate acidity. Yarden Syrah is a luscious dry red wine, full-bodied yet elegant and displays a long and satisfying finish. The wine aged for eighteen months in small French oak barrels.

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Photo: Eilon Paz (from "The Book of New Israeli Food")



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