Although pomegranates originated in Iran and Azerbaijan, they have now spread across the world, popular for their flowers and fruit. Their sweet-sour taste is also highly prized by cooks; here is a recipe, appropriately from Azerbaijan and adapted from Please to the Table by Anya von Bremzen, that depends on their sweet acidity. The spices, nuts and juice combine to create a rich, thick, highly flavoured sauce, just right for the start of winter.
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic chopped
750g stewing lamb, cubed
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp saffron threads, crushed
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground fennel seeds
1/2 litre pomegranate juice
3 tbs pomegranate molasses
2 tbs tomato paste
6 soft prunes, pureed
100g ground walnuts
1/2 litre chicken stock
2 tsp honey
250g chestnuts (baked in the oven or ready cooked in a tin)
100g dried apricots (soaked for a couple of hours if they are hard and dry)
2 tsp turkish pepper flakes
salt and pepper
fresh mint and pomegranate seeds to garnish.
Saute the onions and garlic over medium heat in a large, heavy pan until golden.
Increase the heat and brown the lamb cubes, stirring all the times.
Stir in turmeric, saffron, cinnamon, fennel seeds and stir for a few minutes.
Add the pomegranate juice, pomegranate molasses, tomato paste, pureed prunes, ground walnuts and stock. Bring up to the boil and then cover and simmer over a low heat for 90 minutes. If sauce gets too thick, add more pomegranate juice to loosen it.
Add honey, chestnuts, apricots, pepper flakes and salt; simmer for another 10 - 15 minutes. Check seasoning and adjust if necessary.
Garnish with plenty of fresh mint and pomegranate seeds and serve with steamed rice.
|The mint and pomegranate seeds add colour and flavour to the dish.|