For a Persian style twist on a classic casserole recipe, try this sweet and tender chicken casserole that’s bursting with flavour.
- 250g (8oz) or 4 cups ground walnuts
- 375ml (13fl oz) 1. cup hot chicken stock or hot water
- 6 chicken breasts
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 200ml (7fl oz) 1 cup freshly squeezed pomegranate juice or shop-bought unsweetened juice
- 3. tbsp pomegranate molasses (Persian brand only)
- 1. tsp brown sugar
- 4–5 x 10cm (4in) squares of lavashak (Persian fruit roll)
- pinch of saffron threads, pounded then dissolved in 2 tbsp hot water
- 1 tsp sea salt, plus extra to taste
- twist of pepper
- fresh pomegranate seeds and gold leaf (optional), to serve
Place the ground walnuts in a heavy saucepan and stir constantly over a medium heat until light and golden, about 5–7 minutes. Don’t let them burn.
Slightly lower the heat, add the chicken stock or hot water, cover and cook for about 20 minutes.
In a frying pan, sear the chicken breasts with the oil, onion, turmeric and pepper until just golden. Add to the walnut mixture, cover and cook for a further 30 minutes on the lowest setting. An old lady from a village in the Caspian region taught me to leave a wooden spoon in the pot so that it conducts the heat and doesn’t allow the stew to catch at the bottom.
Add the pomegranate juice, molasses, sugar, lavashak if using, and cook for another 30 minutes with the lid on.
Add the saffron liquid 10 minutes before the end.
The sauce is ready when it’s a lovely dark colour and the chicken is tender.
Season with salt and pepper. The stew should be a perfect balance of sweet and sour. If it’s too sweet, add a bit of lemon juice; if it’s too sour, add a tad more sugar.
Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and gold leaf before serving.