This alluring Persian stew, called fesenjan, is a great dinner party or, really, anytime dish. Here I serve steamed long-grain rice alongside.
100g walnut pieces
900g boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 4cm-5cm cubes
2 1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped (about 300g)
1 tbsp tomato purée
2 tsp light or dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
250ml low-salt chicken stock
250ml pomegranate juice
125ml pomegranate molasses
pomegranate seeds for garnish (optional)
chopped fresh parsley or coriander for garnish (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4 with a rack in the middle. Spread the walnuts on a baking tray and bake until fragrant and lightly toasted, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool completely, then pulse in a food processor to finely chop (do not make a purée). Set aside.
2. Season the chicken with 1. tsp salt. In a large casserole or other wide heavy saucepan with a lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Working in two or three batches (taking care not to crowd the pan), brown the chicken until lightly golden on all sides, 5-7 minutes. Transfer the browned pieces to a plate as you go. Set aside.
3. Add the onions to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 10 minutes. Push the onions to the edges of the pan to clear a space in the centre. Add the tomato purée, brown sugar, turmeric and cinnamon to the cleared space, quickly stirring the mixture until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken, with any accumulated juices, and stock and, using a wooden spoon, scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the pomegranate juice, pomegranate molasses and walnuts. Increase the heat to high and bring the liquid just to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Partially cover and simmer until the sauce is dark brown and slightly thickened, 20-25 minutes.
4. Uncover the pan and continue cooking until the sauce is thickened and has turned a deep mahogany brown, about 10 minutes more. Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning to taste. Serve the stew garnished with pomegranate seeds and parsley or coriander, if desired.
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