I’ve made many Iranian friends in my life. They have welcomed me into their home and dinner table countless times. I cannot tell you how touched I have been by their hospitality and graciousness. Pomegranates are highlighted consistently in their dishes, and so I did not want to end a discussion of pomegranates without including this cuisine.
There are many similarities between Greek and Persian cooking. We regularly use many of the same staple ingredients, such as lamb, walnuts, almonds, parsley, cinnamon, and pomegranate.
Pomegranate is probably native to Iran, actually, and only later cultivated in Mediterranean regions. There are many varieties of pomegranates in Iran that range greatly in color and also sweetness. There is even a black pomegranate which is much more rare and expensive…I would love to hold and taste one someday!
Iranian cuisine is known for its pomegranate soup, and pomegranate chicken dishes.
I remembered having a braised lamb dish with pomegranate years ago. The dish is called Lamb Fesenjan. Though I do not have their recipe, from memory I re-created the dish, added some whims of my own, and it is part of my regular repertoire:
BRAISED LAMB WITH POMEGRANATES
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 chopped shallots
- 1.5 lbs lamb-any kind of stew cut-shoulder, leg, etc.
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 cup beef stock
- 1 cup fresh pomegranate juice
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup chopped almonds
- 1/2- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cardamom
- 1 tbs lime juice
- 1 tbs lemon juice
- 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
- 2 tbs chopped fresh parsley
- In a medium-large pot, saute shallots in olive oil.
- Once the shallots start caramelizing, add lamb cubes.
- Simmer for 20 minutes
- In another smaller pot, simmer pomegranate juice until it is reduced by 1/2 or more- it should become slightly syrupy
- Then add this reduction in another pot with chicken and beef broth, nuts, all the spices, and S&P- let simmer for 15 minutes
- Drain the beef and add to the broth-pomegranate-spice mixture.
- Let it simmer until the lamb feels tender
- Sprinkle with fresh pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley.