As many of you celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah in these days, most of Iranians celebrate Yalda. Yalda is the celebration of the winter solstice, the longest night of the year; Iranians call it Shab-e Chelleh (night of forty) or Shab-e Yaldā (yalda night). In Iran is celebrated between the last day of Azar and the first day of Dey (december 20, 21 or 22 of each year).
In modern Iran, people come together in small or big gatherings to celebrate Yalda, starting with aperitivi such as (fruits specially pomegranate, tea, sweet or wine...) and then continue with a big dinner made by households; then later people play music and dance, drink alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages and eating fruits, sweets and ajil (persian mix nuts & dry fruits) continues.. Later at night, a person who loves and knows how to read the Hafez fluently reads it for the others guests. My father reads Hafez beautifuly and he loves to read it for each member of our family.
Certain food flavors and scents remind us of these celebrations, family and good time spent together. One of my all time favorites is Fesenjoon. A perfect wintry rich family dish which my grandma uses to cook during winter and especially for Yalda.
This stew is made with poultry, pomegranate paste, walnuts and sugar and is usually served with persian rice. Fesenjoon is one of those dishes that has some tips and tricks and, above all, it has patience as main ingredient. You can serve it in tree ways: sweet, sweet&sour or sour. Depending on how you like it, you can balance its sweetness and sourness.
I talked with my grandma yesterday on Skype; she is 85 years old and she knows how to use internet. That's really cool, right? So we talked and I asked her about her fesenjoon recipe again, I wanted to make sure that everything was going to be perfect. She is so adorable, she just doesn't care about measurements so I had to explain to her why I needed them, as I wanted to make mine exactly like hers. But then she explained to me that balancing of sweet and sour ingredients needs to be done by tasting; every pomegranate paste is different, walnuts have different richness and so on, so she recommended to always taste and adjust until you find the right balance for the ingredients you have. I am using a homemade pomegranate paste, for instance, which is for sure richer than what you can buy in the supermarket, so you may have to rebalance on the sugar side.
That's her own recipe, her beautiful hand, her oven, her cooper pots, her patience, her ingredients form different cities in Kerman which her friends send to her, and her love, her love for us and her family and most of all, for life. But I tried my best and the fesenjoon came out just perfect. She saw the pictures and she was so happy with the result. I wish she could taste my fesenjoon too!
Back to Italy, during winter time and especially for Christmas, Italians traditionally cook capon. Jon's Grandma, for instance, makes capon broth for "cappelletti in capon broth" and also "meatballs in capon broth" which both are super delicious. The meat is served aside as "bollito".
Capon has a very rich gamy flavor, it's not as fat as duck and its meat is softer that chicken. Most of all it's capon season. So I decided to mix up some winter traditions and cook my fesenjoon with capon. For the sauce instead I had this lovely and outstanding pomegranate paste from Abyaneh. Did you remember my story from there? Read it here...
Our family version is very thick with lots of ground walnuts, this time with soft pieces of perfectly cooked capon and fresh pomegranate finishing. Served with Persian rice. You can also use any type of flat bread such as Iranian naan, Indian Naan or Arabic Naan to serve your Fesenjoon with.
Hope you enjoy the recipe & Happy Yalda. x
Serves 6 People
For cooking capon and the broth
- medium size capon (mine was about 1.7 kg)
- small cup of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 1 large white onion
- 2 scallions
- 1 carrot
- 1 stick of celery
- 1 big size apple
- 1 medium size pomegranate
- 1 teaspoon of turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 500 ml water
For the sauce
- 150 g walnuts
- 120 g brown sugar
- 240 g pomegranate paste (mine is sweet&sour)
- First of all prepare the Persian rice.
- When you buy your poultry, if you don't know how to do it yourself, ask to clean and cut it into pieces.
- Blend the walnuts to the size of breadcrumb and set aside.
- Back to the kitchen; place the onion, carrot, celery, scallion and half apple in the mixer and blend them into very small pieces.
- Place a pan on medium-low heat and add a splash of olive oil, when is hot, add the onion mixture and toast them on low heat until soft and translucent.
- Meanwhile heat a griddle pan or wide frying pan on high-medium heat and place the capon pisces on it, sear them until golden-brown.
- When they're ready place them in the pan with the onion mixture, bay leaves and small piece of pomegranate to give a capon a better taste. Turn them around and mix them well with the mixture. Season with salt, pepper, turmeric and saffron, add about 500 ml (or more) water and bring to boil.
When it starts boiling, reduce the heat, cover and let it cook for about 30-40 minutes or until is easy to separate the meat from the bones.
Take the capon pieces out from the broth and let them cool for 10 minutes. Using a fork pull the meat from the bones trying to keep it in big chunks. Strain the broth and set aside.
In a clean pan add the walnuts and toast them on medium heat for about 20 seconds, add the capon broth, pomegranate paste, half grated apple, brown sugar and the meat.
Gently stir to mix the sauce and bring it to a boil. Cook the Fesenjoon for 20 minutes partially covered; check the seasoning, add more pomegranate paste if you like yours more sour or add more brown sugar if you like it sweeter. Continue to cook it un-covered and stir occasionally until the sauces gets dark in color, the walnuts oil comes atop and the broth gets ticker.
Serve the Fesenjoon with Persian rice, fresh herbs and yogurt dip. Or make a lovely ticker sauce and make juicy and tasty roll with flat bread, rocket and fresh pomegranate seeds.
- In my family we use to keep 1/3 coarser to have a better bite. Some others like it very fine grained, so it's up to your taste.
- The meat should not be so tender to fall apart and completely cooked because in the second cooking part it would dissolve into the sauce.
- The dosage of pomegranate paste & brown sugar really depends on how you like your sauce. It also depends on how sweet or sour is your pomegranate paste. The best thing to do is to gradually start with a minimum amount, check after few minutes and increase it until the right balance for your taste is reached.
- The Correct spelling of this dish is Fesenjān but in the informal we usually say Fesenjoon.