Persian Pomegranate-Walnut Stew

fesenjan-nutrition

This is a vegetarian version of one my favourite Iranian dishes, called fesenjoon in Farsi.

A perfect dish for parties and family gatherings, it is typically served for the Persian New Year (Noorooz), although I believe I tried it for the first time at one of my girlfriend’s engagement parties. Pomegranates are a symbol of fertility, abundance and everlasting life.

Works well with basmati rice cooked with safforn.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups raw walnuts
  • 1 medium white onion, grated
  • ¼ cup pomegranate paste (choose the sugar-free kind, available in Iranian stores)
  • 3 tbsp of tomato paste (or I used 3 small cherry tomatoes from the garden)
  • 2 – 3 cups water
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • ½ – 1 tsp cinnamon
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup of your favorite meat substitute (I’ve used pan-fried tempeh, but baked tofu or legumes, such as lima beans also work well)
  • a food processor

Directions:

  • Pour the walnuts inside the food processor and grind until they form a smooth paste (similar to nut butter). You can also add the tomato paste at this stage to help achieve the consistency.
  • Place the walnut-tomato paste in a sauce pan with the grated onion, pomegranate paste and spices.
  • Add the water. At this stage, it should be a more watery consistency, like a thick tomato juice.
  • Bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 40-60 minutes, stirring more at first to get rid of the lumps and then occasionally to make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom. At this stage, the sauce should thicken substantially and darken to a deep brown.
  • Serve warm, adding your meat substitute just before serving.  If you are doing lima beans, you will want to cook them separately. I did tempeh, which I lightly pan fried in 2 inch slices until golden brown.

Serves 4-6 as a main dish, with rice and vegetables or a salad.

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