FESENJAN : lamb recipe
20 January 2009
FESENJAN : Persian lamb recipe
Don’t you just love how life has little culinary surprises in store for you…
This year we spent New Years Eve in a quaint Swiss chalet, nestled in the mountains of Eastern Switzerland. It was here that I had the good fortune of meeting Roswit & her daughter Lilly, in the kitchen…. We got to talking about cooking (funny that!) and it turns out that Roswit’s husband is Iranian and she’s learned to make several Persian dishes over the years. This explained why the chalet was filled with the delicious smells & fragrant spices during the holidays.
To my delight we exchanged details and one week later I opened my emails to find her wonderful Fesenjan recipe. This is a traditional Persian dish of duck, in a walnuts & pomegranate sauce. Roswit’s version uses lamb meatballs in a thick walnut, tomato & pomegranate sauce. It is not just the delicious scent of this dish that will capture your heart, not to mention your appetite, but the sumptuous flavour combinations. The lamb with cinnamon, garlic & a hint of sweet/sour pomegranate, with the unctuous nutty sauce that almost tastes creamy without the use of actual cream.
In the future I will try this recipe with chicken or duck and perhaps decorate the top with pomegranate seeds. I also recommend using fresh whole grain / whole wheat bread instead of white bread or bread crumbs as it keeps the meat very moist & juicy. I also used a slightly larger quantity of lamb (280 grams total), as I prefer this meat to onion ratio. This dish is excellent served on a bed of basmati onion rice (** see recipe at end of post).
- 2 cups shelled walnuts
- 1 can peeled whole tomatoes (400g net weight can)
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate juice*
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 1 1/4 cups cold water
*For the pomegranate juice, cut a whole pomegranate in 1/2 and juice it. If you cannot find pomegranets use cranberry juice as a substitute.
- 280 gr mince lamb (I asked the butcher for a piece of the shoulder, fat removed & minced)
- 1 egg
- 4 slices fresh wholegrain bread
- 1/2 bunch parsley (you can add more if you like)
- 2 small white onion
- 2 garlic cloves, freshly pressed
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- salt & pepper
- 1 tablespoon vegetable (not olive) oil for frying meat balls
- Sauce preparation: In a blender, combine walnuts, tomatoes, pomegranate juice, sugar & water until you have a creamy homogeneous mixture.
- Pour sauce into a pot, cover & cook on low heat for 2 hours. Stir regularly. The colour will naturally darken. NOTE: if you are pressed for time, this recipe still works if you only cook the sauce for 30 minutes.
- Meat preparation: I use the blender for all the chopping. 1st finely chop the onions. Cook till translucent with a little olive oil – they are easier to digest. Next finely chop the bread & parsley.
- In a large bowl combine cooked onions, chopped bread & parsley, pressed garlic, cinnamon, salt & pepper, egg & minced lamb.
- From the meatballs into ping-pong sized balls, set on a plat.
- In a non stick frying pan on high heat, add vegetable oil & quickly fry the meatballs for 2 minutes to brown the outsides. Turn regularly to avoid burning. DO NOT OVER COOK or they will dry out.
- Now gently add the fried meatballs to the sauce. Turn of stove OFF & let sit for 15 minutes.
BASMATI ONION RICE Recipe:
- 200 grams basmati rice
- 600 mL cold water
- 3 whole cardamon pods
- 3 whole cloves
- 2 laurel (bay) leaves
- 4 pepper corns (any colour)
- 4 whole coriander seeds
- 1 whole cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons butter (1 for the onions, 2 for the rice at the end)
- 1 medium white onion
- Wash the rice in cold water.
- In a large saucepan add water, rice, spices & salt.
- Cover & bring almost to a boil. Reduce heat to med/low and let cook for 20 mins or until water is absorbed. NO STIRRING NECESSARY. Watch that it does not bubble over at the beginning when you have just reduced the heat.
- Finely chop onion and fry on a low heat with 1 tablespoon butter, until a light golden colour. Do not overcook as you want the onions to remain soft.
- Once rice is cooked, remove from heat, add butter & fried onions, stir well, recover and set aside for 5-10 minutes before serving. You can add a few flecks of saffron for colour!
Healthier rice : omit the fried onions & use little or no added butter