Persian Fesenjan With Duck
Duck, walnuts, pomegranates – what’s not to like about this rich, nutty and sweet combination. Persian fesenjan is a gorgeous, slow-cooked sauce of ground walnuts finished with tangy pomegranate molasses to which you add pieces of chicken or duck. With time the walnuts release their natural oils and, when cooked further with the duck, the sauce takes on a mysterious, dark, glossy unctuousness. Most recipes call for pieces of poultry on the bone that is served in the sauce. I add some duck wings for flavouring the sauce but I find for presentation purposes it is nicer to serve a sliced, rare duck breast on top of the walnut sauce rather than coated within it. A scattering of fresh pomegranate seeds are the sparkling jewels that give it a truly exotic Persian character but if you can’t manage that segmented oranges also add a lovely tang to the dish. The elements of this dish are in season now, so make sure you get some Victorian walnuts and pomegranates. Serve the fesenjan with saffron rice or a plain basmati rice. A fennel, orange and red onion salad would also be a great match or do as the Iranians do and offer a selection of fresh herbs and soft salad leaves as a palate cleanser.
- 2 duck breasts
- 2 duck wings
- 1 onion, finely diced
- olive oil
- 1 tbs plain flour
- 500 g freshly and finely ground walnuts
- 1litre water
- 2 1/2 tbs caster sugar
- 400 ml pomegranate molasses
- seeds of a fresh pomegranate
- 1 orange, segmented and cut into pieces (optional)
In a saucepan toast the plain flour over a medium heat until it just starts to change colour. Add the walnuts and stir through for 1-2 minutes. Add the water and mix well, bringing it to the boil and then cover with a lid and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. When the natural oils start to be released add the sugar and pomegranate molasses and stir.
Meanwhile soften the onions with a little salt in the olive oil in a frypan and then brown the duck wings. Add this to the walnut sauce when it is ready and cook on a low heat for another hour.
Season the skin of the duck breasts. Wipe out the frypan with kitchen paper and place the pan on a medium heat. Place the duck breasts skin side down and let the fat from the skin render out and skin crisp up. Turn the breasts over and cook for about 8 minutes. Cook for about 10-15 minutes in total; the meat should be a nice pink after it has rested. Remove to a warm plate, cover with foil and let the meat rest until ready to serve. Remove the duck wings (you can eat these with any left over sauce another time). Drain the meat juices from the resting duck into the walnut sauce and slice the breasts. Spread some of the walnut sauce on the plate, fan out the sliced duck breast on top and scatter with fresh pomegranate seeds.