Duck in walnut and pomegranate sauce (fesenjan)

February 18, 2014  •  Category:

I was recently gifted a duck  from Salah, an Egyptian farmer who returned from a visit to his farm and family in Egypt carrying with him seven ducks on the airplane; he explained to me that he’d made sure they were totally frozen. His family’s farm raises ducks as well as buffaloes, from three different varieties. Unfortunately, these poor ducks get their wings clipped in the process.

This dish can be prepared with chicken as well. In fact, I made it with chicken (photo above) and the taste is equally delicious. It is easier to cut the duck or chicken in pieces prior to cooking them. 

It is the most delicious stew, beloved in Iraq as well as Iran (but it is of Iranian origin). Its two main components are pomegranate molasses and walnuts. Luckily, I was offered a jar of exquisite pomegranate molasses from a prominent Lebanese food processor and could not wait to use it. This stew is as simple to make as 1,2,3; let it simmer gently and forget about it. Serve it with rice or bread.

INGREDIENTS: 4 servings (up to 6)

  • 1 duck or chicken, cut up in 4 or 8 pieces
  • 3 large onions, chopped
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil or clarified butter
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate molasses
  • 2 cups chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp sugar (optional, if needed)
  • salt, to taste

1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, over medium-low  heat, pour the oil and brown the duck or chicken and onions. Meanwhile, grind the walnuts in a food processor or blender with the pomegranate molasses and 2 cups of water; add the spices and taste; adjust seasoning, adding a bit of sugar if the taste is too sour to your liking. 

2. Pour the pomegranate/walnut sauce over the chicken or duck pieces, add a bit more water if needed and cover; bring to a simmer and let it bubble up gently for one hour or longer, till thoroughly cooked. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired, adding more sugar or more pomegranate molasses. Garnish with pomegranate arils if desired. Serve with plain rice. dup persian duck stewNOTE: Najmieh Batmanglij who is my reference for all things to do with Persian cuisine says that walnuts in this dish can be replaced with almonds or pistachios or hazelnuts; in her version, the stew also includes cubed butternut squash, previously fried in butter as well. She  adds saffron to the stew (I find it unnecessary). She says the squash can be replaced with beets or eggplants or prunes. 


13 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Rosa says:

    A refined flavor combination. This dish is simply exquisite!



  2. Cowen Park Kitchen says:

    I’ve been meaning to make this dish for some time, I’ve got a jar of homemade pomegranate molasses in my fridge that needs using up. Definitely going on the to-do list!

  3. Ma ha says:

    Dear Jumna,
    Thank you for posting this delicious recepie loaded with so many good nutrients. I am Iranian and never heard or seen replacing walnuts with any other type of nuts as Najmeh Batmanjeligh has suggested, nor adding eggplant, squash or pumpkins. This dish is purely made of meat ( chicken, duck, turkey, ground lamb or beef), pomegranate sauce, some sugar, very finely ground walnut. The pomegranate sauce should be added to the boneless meat shredded or chopped into small pieces, after the meat is cooked; otherwise, the pomegranate will make the meat too hard. The stew is served over Saffron rice, but no saffron in the stew. I find quite a few of Batmanjeligh’s recepies not in sync with Persian cooking, and quite different, specially her show with Martha Stewart for ” sabzi polo ” for persian New Year which was a recepie no one in Iran uses for that occasion . Just because she is the only Iranian who has published a cooking book in persian, really does not make her an expert . There are a lot of persian food blogs on line or recepies as well as you tube that are more authentic than Batmanjeligh’s recepies . Tnx.

    • Joumana says:

      @ Ma ha: I am so glad for your input; Iran is a vast country, with people from different backgrounds, and a rich history going back thousands of years. I am sure Iranian cuisine deserves not one book but volumes of scholarly work to be exhaustive. I do follow other Persian authorities on the topic (bloggers) but will concede that I do not know enough about Iran to determine who is the final authority on its cuisine; I admire Mrs. Batmanglij for her work, these beautiful books peppered with cultural anecdotes. Her efforts spanning years and years deserve an accolade in my humble opinion.

  4. Elizabeth Barratt says:

    Mrs. Batmanglij’s cousin Andy gave me a copy of her Persian Cuisine cookbook and I find it extremely easy to follow and the accompanying photos are absolutely gorgeous. I lived in Iran for several years and although not familiar with all aspects of the cooking in that exotic and lovely land, I certainly came to appreciate the delicious and historic recipes. I was privileged to be a guest in my landlady’s home in Tehran on many occasions when festive meals were served. She took great pains to explain various aspects and ingredients of Persian food to me. It made me appreciate this ancient cuisine all the more. And, as with the special foods of any country, the locals who prepare it will be the first to tell you “this is the best way” or “this is the only way.” I found in my travels about Iran, that each region had its own version of various famous dishes. Fesenjan was among the most popular because it is considered by many to be the national dish of Iran. The great gift Ms Batmanglij has given to her adopted country of America is to produce highly readable cookbooks that not only explain, step by step, how Persian food is prepared, but also to include cultural, historic and artistic background on the dishes. Her personal anecdotes about family life in the kitchen and around the table in her native land make the book all the more readable, and memorable.

    • Joumana says:

      @Elizabeth: I could not agree more with you; hope to visit this beautiful country and taste this wonderful food made by locals as you have been so privileged to experience. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with readers of this blog. I appreciate it.

  5. Nuts about food says:

    Oh, that sounds lovely! How do you think it would work with pistachios instead of walnuts? I have a huge stash because my father-in-law brought me a bag of Iranian pistachios from the UAE and my sister-in-law brought me another bag from Bronte… two of the best kinds in the world and am looking for ways to use them. It seems to me like they would work as they are such a typical ingredient in those countries. Well, I will start by pinning the recipe

    • Joumana says:

      @Nuts about food: I have never tried this recipe with anything other than walnuts; walnuts work so well with pomegranates; I am not sure you’d get the same result with pistachios; I would try a small amount first to see, perhaps not using pom molasses but honey instead. As a matter of fact if I had a huge stash of pistachios I’d make pistachio paste which keeps for months. I posted a recipe for it a few years back.

  6. Gabi says:

    Hi Joumana,

    my question might be a bit out of line. If so, just ignore it and do not release the comment.

    I’m very fond of pommegranates and luckily they are widely available now, If used in savory dishes I can adjust the sweetness, but for deserts I’ld like to make sure I’ve got the sweet ones. Is there any way of telling the difference before actually buying and tasting?

    • Joumana says:

      @Gabi: I would simply ask the store (produce manager); in Lebanon, we have some planted that are the sweet variety (for eating and desserts) and some that are the sour variety (for making molasses); it is something the produce person should know.

  7. marlene sayegh says:

    coucou !
    j’espere que tout se passe bien pour vous 🙂
    depuis quelques temps j’ai une envie folle de cuisiner du coup je passe beaucoup de temps a chercher des blogs et des recettes , libanais de preference.
    et voila ce que j’ai trouve dernierement
    je tiens a ce que vous jetiez un coup d’oeil la dessus , il y a des choses interessantes . j’attend que vous me dites ce que vous en pensez
    bonne soiree

  8. Elena says:

    So delicious, Joumana!
    I purchased the descent number of different books about Persian kitchen but the book of Nadjmie is a best.

  9. Oui, Chef says:

    I am such a fan of duck, I know I would LOVE this dish!

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