Sunday, 22 April 2007

walnut & pomegranate spatchcock

This will be my last WHB for a few weeks, since I’m headed overseas for work. Between all the hard sell I’m sure I’ll have some time for new culinary experiences and cultural exchanges in my two destinations: Frankfurt and Tel Aviv.

I’m hoping to visit some produce markets, try out some traditional cuisine and see the sights in amongst the work.

So I leave you with this WHB entry, which is one of the finest meals I have ever cooked: Khoresht-e Fesenjân.

It comes straight from Julie Le Clerc’s Taking Tea in the Medina, a beautifully photographed and wonderfully written cookbook containing dishes from North Africa and the Middle East and combining commentary on culture and cooking.

Le Clerc explains that fesenjân is an ancient Persian dish, still widely eaten in Iran today where it is served at all religious festivals. It can be made with duck, chicken, lamb or veal and even fish and ground meat.

The ground walnuts bring a richness to the gravy that makes you believe there is cream in the recipe and the pomegranate molasses adds a sweet-sour quality.

The ingredients and combination sounds incredibly exotic, and the flavour is very unique, however the recipe is remarkably simple. I would recommend this to anyone wanting wow factor for a dinner party, since it’s so easy to make and can be done so in advance and just reheated.

I served mine with wilted spinach dressed in olive oil and lemon juice and plain long grained rice. The spinach was delicious and cooking it involves merely boiling a kettle! For dessert I served my Muhallabiah Mousse with Pomegranate & Orange Blossom Syrup.


Le Clerc’s original recipe is for duck, however my butcher didn't have any and so I used a beautiful organic spatchcock instead (a spatchcock is a baby chicken or poussin). This changed the recipe somewhat, since a spatchcock contains considerably less fat than a duck and therefore needs a little oil added.

The below recipe is my ever-so-slightly amended version, which is pretty much the same as the original, so if you wanted to use duck just substitute 6 whole legs and omit the browning oil.

Khoresht-e Fesenjân
Recipe from Taking Tea in the Medina by Julie Le Clerc. Serves 6.
3 spatchcocks, cut in half lengthwise
250g toasted walnut pieces
1 large onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons soft brown sugar
¼ cup pomegranate molasses
2½ cups chicken stock
Seeds of 1 pomegranate to garnish
¼ cup finely chopped fresh mint to garnish
4 tablespoons olive oil
1. Finely grind walnuts in a food processor.
2. Season meat with salt and pepper.
3. Using a flameproof casserole dish with lid, heat olive oil then brown chicken skin side down for approximately 5 minutes on each side. Remove to one side.
4. Pour off excess fat and retain 2 tablespoons. Add onion and cook over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes until softened and golden brown.
5. Add cinnamon, sugar and ground walnuts and cook for 1 minute stirring continuously as the sugar melts.
6. Add pomegranate molasses and chicken stock and bring to the boil.
7. Add chicken and baste with sauce. turn down heat, cover and simmer gently for 1¼ hours (I actually simmer it for around 25-30 minutes then removed the chicken and cooked the sauce another 20 minutes).
8. Serve coated in sauce and garnished with pomegranate seeds and chopped mint.
Note: if you are cooking duck, be sure to skim off any excess fat that rises to the surface during cooking.

Wilted Spinach w Lemon & Olive Oil
Anna's very own recipe. Serves 2.

200g baby spinach leaves
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt & Pepper
1. Boil kettle. Place spinach into a pot or heatproof bowl
2. Cover with boiled water. Leave 2 minutes to wilt.
3. Drain and squeeze out excess water with hands.
4. Loosen leaves and dress with olive oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper.

Pomegranates are wonderful fruits, and although I used the products in both sauce and garnish, I have already blogged about them so I decided to focus on mint instead.

Mint (Mentha) is a genus of the Lamiaceae family and is made up of around 30 species (7 from Australia, 1 from North America, the rest from Europe and Asia). The Lamiaceae family also includes other herbs like basil, rosemary, sage and oregano.

They are flowering, aromatic perennials with wide spreading roots and hardy abilities to withstand all kinds of conditions. They are also very vigoruous growers, so be careful when planting them in the ground as they can go nuts and take over your whole garden!

It’s interesting to note that mint oil can used as an insecticide and can kill wasps, hornets, ants and cockroaches. It can also relieve insect bites.

Mint is particularly useful in the treatment of digestive and breathing ailments. Menthol inhalants help to reduce sinus congestion and a nip of diluted peppermint oil can relieve heartburn symptoms.

In the Middle Ages people used mint to whiten their teeth and cigarette companies add it to their products to mask the bitter chemicals in the tobacco.

The week’s Weekend Herb Blogging is hosted by Sher from What Did You Eat? Be sure to visit her recap to read about the other herby offerings from this week.




  1. Sounds like a very interesting recipe. I looked through this cookbook once in a bookstore, and have regretted not buying it. (So many cookbooks . . .) I'm very jealous of your chance to travel, and I haven't been to either of those countries so I'm eagerly awaiting reports of what your impressions are.

  2. THAT's what a spatchcock is. I've seen it in in cookbooks but never had a clue (I'm not ALWAYS in front of my computer to google it).
    I've made a duck with walnut sauce which was excellent but I really like the idea of the pomegranate molasses in it... and so pretty with the seeds.
    Have fun and don't work too hard on your trip!

  3. Anna, what a wonderful recipe. I am a fan of le clerc's. I have sent her emails in a couple of occasions and she does reply which I find extraordinary considering that she might be awfully busy. I do like the sauce with pomegranate and also the fact that you garnished with it.Happy travels to you.

  4. What a delicious recipe!!
    And you going to Frankfurt. I´m very interested how you like my country!! Hope you have a nice time apart from work.

  5. helene - last year i was in frankfurt in march and i thought the city was so quiet. my colleagues have promised me more action this time!

    but i can't wait to eat handkäse mit musik and grüne soße, and don't forget the apfelvoi!

  6. Looks delicious! Another cookbook to add to the list! Wonderful blog, by the way!

  7. I really love all the ways you use pomegranates. This looks absolutely delicious!


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