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Iranian walnut, pomegranate & chicken stew (Fesenjan)

More than 50 years ago, Ahmed moved from Tabriz to Shiraz to start his formal education. As per his parents’ advice, he sought shelter at the home of Atef, who was his father’s friend.  Atef worked for the government of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi who was soon-to-be the last shah of Iran.  Ahmed had come to Shiraz to study, but he found something much more important: Ghodsi, the love of his life. He first saw her on the day he arrived when she opened the door for him and it was love at first sight. Luckily, the family had no objections and a few months later the couple got married.  Ahmed and his wife never parted, through  the ’79 coup and the Iranian revolution that followed, which left Ghodsi’s father unemployed,

When I met them, in 2016,  they were both in their seventies and are well settled in Tehran with two of their grown–up children. Ahmed had acquired  his family carpet-making factory in Tabriz and was running a very successful international business.

They invited me to their home in Vanak, a neighborhood in the northern part of Teheran, which was one of those spacious apartments that brings to mind the prosperous time under the rule of the Shah. The living room floor was covered in silk carpet worth thousands of dollars, produced by Ahmed’s factory. In order to preserve it, Ghodsi covered it with another, cheap factory-made rug that was removed only when the couple hosted very important guests. Obviously I wasn’t one of them.

The house tour finished in front of the hand-made silk kilim hanging above the couple’s bed, a depiction of Ghodsi and Ahmed’s favorite scene from the film Titanic when Leonardo DiCaprio holds Kate Winslet at the ship’s bow.  I couldn’t believe how kitsch it was, yet how important for these two people.

“Can you do me a favor Aleks?” Ahmed asked. “Can you find the home address of this man for me?”

“Who?” I asked surprised. “Leonardo DiCaprio?”

“Yes! The boy. I want to send him this carpet. It’s very expensive and made of silk!”

I was speechless with astonishment. “I’ll try, Ahmed “

From the bedroom we returned to the kitchen where I was invited to help Ghodsi cook. If she hadn’t hadn’t asked me to help, I’d have volunteered, because I had been told that the women of Shiraz were some of the best cooks in Iran. We prepared fasenjaan,a famous Iranian dish.  Even now when I think about it, I ask myself if there can be anything more sophisticated and indulgent that a chicken stew cooked in rich sweet and sour pomegranate juice,mixed with earthy walnuts?

By the way, a friend  managed to find the Leonardo di Caprio fan club address, which I sent it to Ahmed, I’m not sure whether he managed to send him the precious kilim.



Serves 3

Iranian walnut, pomegranate & chicken stew (Fesenjan)

Iranian chicken stew cooked in rich sweet and sour pomegranate juice and mixed with earthy walnuts

10 minPrep Time

50 minCook Time

1 hrTotal Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe


  • 0,5 kg chicken thighs (or other chicken parts with bones), cut manageable pieces
  • 1 cup walnuts, crushed
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 800 ml chicken stock
  • 100 ml pomegranate molasses
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • ghee or butter for frying


  1. Preheat the pan, dissolve some ghee and fry the chicken from both sides until golden brown.
  2. In a separate pan, heat another teaspoon of ghee and add the chopped onion and cinnamon sticks. Sauté for about 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Combine crashed walnuts with flour and add the mix into the cooked onion. Cook together for about 2 minutes, afterwards add the chicken and simmer for another 3 to 4 minutes in order to allow the meat to absorb the flavors.
  4. Add chicken stock and cover with the lid. Cook for 25 minutes on low heat.
  5. Stir in the pomegranate molasses and cook for another 10 minutes uncovered. Turn off the heat and serve with saffron rice.


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1 thought on “Iranian walnut, pomegranate & chicken stew (Fesenjan)”

  • This is one of favorite dishes on earth, but I'd only eaten it in Iranian restaurants until I found this recipe. I am thrilled to know I can make it myself at home now. It was easy to do, ready in less than an hour and DELICIOUS. The same, wonderful mix of flavors I remembered from the best restaurants. Thank you, thank you, for this fabulous recipe. I'll be making it often.

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