Tag Archives: Iranian

Fesenjan – A Persian Pomegranate and Walnut Stew

11 Nov Persian Pomegranate & Walnut Stew

I have been wanting to make a vegetarian version of the savoury and sweet Persian celebration dish, Fesanjan for a long time. It is normally made with chicken or lamb but I have used aubergine and sweet potato as the meat replacements. Pumpkin or squash would also be lovely in this or maybe even some meaty mushrooms.

The reason that I have been desperate to make this is because I love pomegranates. There are hundreds of pomegranate trees were we walk with the dog and The Washer Up is always screaming at me to stop taking photos of them, but I can’t.

“Not another bloody picture of a pomegranate” he says “How many do you need?” he asks impatiently  “You must have thousands already, along with all the pictures of blooming oranges”.

“It’s what I do!” I reply.

This is the perfect dish to showcase the beautiful pomegranates that are plentiful and cheap here at the moment. I use their ruby jewels a lot as a final garnish, like on this Lebanese Lentil Salad where their sweet and sourness pops in your mouth, livens up the whole dish and, of course, they look lovely. I have also topped this Savoury Feta Cheesecake with a generous glistening pile of them for an impressively dramatic but surprisingly easy to prepare dinner party dish.

In this dish though it’s the juice that gets to take a leading role. Traditionally pomegranate molasses (a reduced thickened pomegranate syrup) would be used but I can’t seem to find any here. I used the juice of four pomegranates and some veg stock as the liquid in which the vegetables are cooked. Along with the ground walnuts that thicken the stew while it cooks, these are the two most important ingredients in the recipe. They give it colour, texture and flavour.

You can obviously buy pomegranate juice in a carton if you like, but I wanted to try it with my beloved pomegranates. Juicing a pomegranate is quite a mission but you get used to it. I did most of it on my normal hand orange juicer, bursting any jewels left in the top of the juicer and squishing the juice out with my fingers. I then squeezed what was left in the fruit directly into the pot by hand. I got about 500 ml of juice from four big pomegranates.

Fesanjan – Persian Pomegranate & Walnut Stew Recipe

Serves 4. Vegan, Gluten-free.

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 large aubergine 300 g, cut in 1-2 cm cubes
  • 1 large sweet potato 400 g, scrubbed, cut into 1-2 cm chunks
  • salt & black pepper
  • 200 g walnuts, finely ground in a processor plus some chopped for garnish
  • the juice of four pomegranates (about 500 ml) reserve some jewels for garnish
  • 500 ml stock
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp honey or sugar
  • fresh parsley leaves to serve

Heat the oil, in a large pot, over a medium heat and cook the onion with a pinch of salt for about 4 mins until softened, then add the spices, cook for a minute or so (add a splash of stock if it’s dry), then add the ground walnuts, aubergine & sweet potato. Stir to coat in the spices then add the pomegranate juice and stock.

Bring to the boil then lower the heat, partially cover and simmer for 15 mins. Remove the lid then simmer again for 25-30 mins until the sauce is thickened, it shouldn’t be liquidy.

Taste for seasoning, it should be quite sweet and a little sour. Add more salt, lemon or honey/sugar until you are happy. Serve garnished with pomegranate jewels, chopped walnuts and a few parsley leaves. This isn’t authentic but it isn’t the prettiest of dishes otherwise, it’s very brown so the pomegranate seeds brighten it up a bit.

Serve with some plain rice and a herby green salad like the ones we served the lovely Iranian family that we cooked for over the summer. They use herb leaves whole as a salad leaf rather than as a garnish. I topped it with pomegranate seeds obviously, but then I am obsessed. Apparently.

I hope they approve of my vegetarian version of Fesenjan!

Persian Quince Jam with Cardamom and Rosewater For Breakfast

27 Oct Persian Quince Jam

Quince are  large yellow knobbly apple-shaped fruits that have a slightly floral flavour and ripen in the Autumn. On the tree they have a white furry layer over their skin that will probably be rubbed off if you see them for sale. You see old Spanish ladies buying  bags full at the market. They will be boiling up huge pots of them to make Carne de Membrillo, a sweet quince paste that is traditionally served with a nice cured Manchego cheese. Chica Andaluza has the recipe if you are interested.

I fancied making something a little different with my very modest single kilo of the fragrant fruit. It’s a very similar thing but comes via Persia to this table.

As I have mentioned before, in the summer we were cooking lunch for an Iranian family for a few weeks. We used to arrive every morning at about 11am  after shopping for the day’s food. As we were unpacking the shopping they would still be finishing off their breakfast. Breakfast was a long and luxurious family occasion that I found fascinating. The table was generously laid with breads, cheeses, fresh fruit, dried fruits, nuts, honey, yoghurt, tahini and cinnamon pancakes that one of the husbands made every day. A bowl of Bran Flakes and a quick cup of coffee it was not.

The family live in different cities all over the world but meet up once a year for a holiday together. On the first night, the Grandma arrived from Paris on a very late flight carrying a huge jar (like 5 litres) of something that looked like homemade chutney or jam. How on earth did she get that through customs? The daughters and granddaughters were very pleased though, it was obviously a family favourite that no holiday would be complete without.

I found out the next morning, when they let me taste some, that it was a very special quince jam that their Grandma had always made that they all loved. It took pride of place every morning on that amazing breakfast table. A perfect match for the cheese, like our very own Dulce de Membrillo.

She didn’t speak any English and my French is very rusty but I managed to get that there was cardamom in there, I could see the little black seeds too. The recipe is obviously a very closely guarded family secret because she always very politely managed to avoid telling me anything more. It was delicious, I can see why she was so protective of it.

So this is a recipe I found on the internet, it tastes very similar but not as good as Grandma’s obviously. The quince flesh turns from a very pale yellow when raw to a bright coral or even a rich ruby-red when cooked. It depends how long you cook it for and how often you open the lid. If you cover the pot with a tea towel and then put on the lid while cooking (and don’t peek) it goes darker like mine. I may have overdone it slightly I think.

Persian Quince Jam Recipe

Makes about 1 large jar, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Turmeric & Saffron

  • I used 4 quince (about 900 g), washed, cored & cubed or sliced (you can peel it too if you like)
  • 250 g sugar
  • 500 ml water
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 cardamom pods, bashed to open them
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 or 2 tbsp rosewater

Remove any dark bits in the fruit and squeeze half the lemon over the chopped pieces to stop discolouration.

Put the water and sugar in a large saucepan, bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered for 5-7 minutes.  Add a splash more water if it is drying out.

Add the ground cardamom, the bashed cardamom pods and the quince to the sugar syrup, stir well, bring back to the boil and add 2 tbsp lemon juice. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover the top with a tea towel then put on the lid. Simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until reduced and jam-like. Check it very occasionally and stir gently.

Add a tablespoon of rosewater and simmer for another few minutes. Carefully taste and add more rosewater if you like.

Pour or spoon the hot jam into sterilised jars, seal and leave to cool. When cool store in the fridge.

Serve for breakfast with a creamy smooth cheese or yoghurt on toasted bread. Or go for the whole breakfast feast and fill the table with fresh fruit, gorgeous breads, a selection of cheeses, dried fruits, nuts, honey, yoghurt and cinnamon pancakes.

Take the time to sit down and enjoy a long leisurely weekend breakfast.

Persian Spiced Lentil and Herb Soup with spinach and noodles

4 Feb DCIM100MEDIA

I love this weather we’re having here at the moment. It’s cold but sunny. Clear blue skies and you can see the snow on the mountains in the distance. It’s great for walking because you don’t get too hot and the views are spectacular…

You’ve got the snow on the Sierra de las Nieves on one side and the view down to the sea on the other…….

 And a lot of fragrant pines in between…

When I get back from walking I want something hearty, healthy and delicious for lunch. I have been meaning to try this soup for a while, it has all my favourite things in one dish. Lentils, Middle Eastern spices and loads of fresh herbs and greens. I’ve reworked a Persian recipe I found for Aashe Reshteh. Aashe (soup) Reshteh (noodle) is made with Sabzi (fresh greens) which can include parsley, coriander, mint, spinach, spring onions, dill and whatever else green you have. I used lentils and kidney beans but you could use chickpeas, white beans or whatever you have. The original recipe I found cooked this for 3-4 hours, I have no idea why it was ready as soon as the pasta was cooked. It took about half an hour in total and the greens are still fresh and delicious…

Persian Lentil & Herb Soup with Spinach & Noodles

serves 4 vegetarian

  • 175 gr (1 cup) brown lentils (uncooked)
  • 1-1 1/2 litres veg stock 
  • 200 gr cooked kidney beans, rinsed & drained
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 leek, rinsed & sliced
  •  2 stalks celery & leaves chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped or 1 garlic shoot
  • 1/2 head cabbage, cored & shredded
  • a big pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp sumac (optional)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp  Ras al Hanout (a Middle eastern spice mix)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp dried mint
  • a bag of spinach (300 gr) I used frozen chopped spinach which comes in portions I used about 6 squares.
  • a big handful of parsley, chopped
  • a big handful coriander chopped
  • 2 or 3 spring onions, chopped
  • salt & black pepper
  • 100 gr dried noodles (I used wholemeal spaghetti broken but you can use fine vermicelli, like you would for a minestrone)
  • 4 tsp greek yoghurt or sour cream

In a small pan cook the lentils in 600 ml (3 cups) liquid (I used 400 veg stock 200 water). Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile heat some olive oil in a big pot over a medium heat. Cook the onions, leeks & celery for about 8 minutes until they start to soften then add the garlic and cook for another minute. If it gets dry at any time add a splash of veg stock. Add in the spices and dried herbs then pour in the lentils and their cooking liquid. It doesn’t matter if the lentils aren’t cooked they will carry on cooking in the soup. Add in about a litre of stock, the cabbage, frozen spinach(if you are using fresh leave it till later) and the cooked beans. Bring to the boil add in the broken pasta/ noodles, lower the heat and simmer until the pasta is cooked (about 10 -15 minutes). About 5 minutes before you want to serve the soup add in the fresh spinach & half of the fresh herbs and spring onions.

Ladle the hot soup into warmed bowls and garnish with a dollop of Greek yoghurt/sour cream and the rest of the chopped fresh herbs and spring onions…..

I served this delicious soup with some Halloumi Cheese & Garlic Pull- Apart Bread (which tastes as amazing as it sounds) and I will be posting the recipe tomorrow……… Hasta Manana!!

 

    
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