I never really knew of the existence of pomegranates till about 2 years ago. Ignorance? Quite possibly. In fact, I never realised that it was a fruit that was sold in Malaysia. I highly suspect its because I spent most of my time stuffing myself with durians, rambutans, mangosteens and mangoes.
Now that I’ve discovered the pomegranate, I can’t seem to stop myself from using it. From drinking it as a juice, to utilising it as a cooking ingredient – I do it all. There’s just something about the crunch of pomegranate seeds (especially the pleasurable burst of juice that greets you each time you bite into a seed) that appeals to me.
I’ve recently come to learn of the usage of pomegranate molasses in cooking. Primarily used in Middle Eastern/Mediterranean dishes, it is essentially a thick reduction of pomegranate juice made by boiling the juice down until it achieves a sticky and syrupy consistency. It keeps extremely well, and as such is a handy thing to have in your pantry.
So when I saw this recipe for Persian pomegranate and walnut chicken, I knew I had to make it. I order something similar when we eat at Persian restaurants, except that the restaurant uses duck in place of the chicken. I’d always thought it’d be a bit of a fiddle to cook, but it was surprisingly easy.
I used a recipe I found in Meals in Heels, by the lovely Jennifer Joyce. For those of you that don’t know her, she’s a food stylist by profession, but is also a fantastic cook. I am forever grateful to her for sharing her cucumber pickle recipe with me! But as I was saying, her cookbook is aimed at those who want to entertain with style and ease. There aren’t any photos of the food, but there are wonderfully drawn graphics to make up for it. Jennifer also has a blog where she features recipes from the book, and posts a photograph or two to illustrate the dish.
This dish was delicious (I had it with some wholegrain couscous), and had a real heartiness to it that I enjoyed – the walnuts thickened up the sauce very nicely, and gave it a nice richness to the whole stew. I sprinkled some pomegranate seeds over the top, simply because I cannot resist their delightful “crunch”.
Persian chicken with walnut and pomegranate sauce
Inspired by a recipe in Meals in Heels
- 1kg chicken thighs and drumsticks, skin on (Jen uses chicken thigh pieces)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- olive oil, for browning chicken
For the sauce:
- 200g walnuts
- 3 large onions, chopped
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 150ml pomegranate molasses
- 500ml chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar
- seeds from 1 pomegranate*
- parsley leaves
1. Place walnuts in a mini (or full-sized) food processor, and process until the walnuts form a fine powder. Set aside.
2. Season the chicken drumsticks and thighs with salt and pepper. Heat some olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat, and brown the chicken, in batches, until they turn golden brown. Set aside.
3. Using the same pan, fry the onion over low heat for 15 minutes, or until soft and golden.
4. Add the cinnamon powder to the onions, and cook for a further 2 minutes.
5. Add the pomegranate molasses, stock sugar, chicken and ground walnuts to the pan, and simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
6. Transfer to a serving bowl, scatter over the pomegranate seeds and parsley, and serve!
* A tip (courtesy of Nigella Lawson) for removing pomegranate seeds: Cut pomegranates in half, hold a half over a large bowl and beat the back of the pomegranate with a wooden spoon. All the seeds will come tumbling (or flying) into the bowl – much easier than picking at each seed individually.