Fesenjoon Fesenjoon

Bake Off star and foodie favourite Hoda Alzubaidi shares her best-loved dish for celebrating the festival of Shab-e Yalda, which will be held on 21 December 2023.


Serves 6-8


2 hrs 20 mins


  • 3½ cups walnuts
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 900g bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp saffron threads
  • ¾ cup pomegranate molasses, plus more as needed
  • 2 tbs sugar
  • Pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley, to garnish
  • Jasmine rice, salad (see note) and Greek yoghurt, to serve

Cook's note

I would recommend serving with salad shirazi, which is finely chopped cucumber, tomato and red onion with plenty of lemon juice to cut through the richness of the fesenjoon.


Finely grind the walnuts in a food processor until they start to look like sand that clumps together. Don’t over process – it will turn into walnut butter if you do, and we don’t want that!
Place a dry non-stick frypan over medium heat. Lightly toast the ground walnuts, stirring continuously for a few minutes, until you can smell the aroma of the nuts, making sure not to burn them. Pour into a bowl and set aside to cool.
Add the olive oil to a large stockpot or Dutch oven with a lid and place over high heat. When olive oil glistens, add the onion and cook until it starts to caramelise and turn golden brown. Add the turmeric and stir into the onion mixture.
Add the chicken and sear for a few minutes on each side. Add 3 cups (750ml) of water and the cinnamon. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes, then remove the chicken and set aside.
Pour the ground walnuts into the simmering cooking liquid and stir. Place the lid back on the pot and simmer the walnut sauce for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened and darkened to a deeply golden colour, like tahini or honey, with a layer of walnut oil on top.
Using a mortar and pestle, grind the saffron threads into a powder, then add 1 tablespoon (20ml) of water and mix well. Add the pomegranate molasses, sugar and saffron mixture to the walnut sauce pot. Stir to combine.
Add the chicken back into the pot and simmer for a further 45 minutes, or until the meat is falling off the bone. The stew will be a rich dark brown and the oil from the walnuts will form a layer on top. Stir and season with fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and taste. Adjust the sweetness, sourness and seasoning according to your preferences.
Ladle the fesenjoon into a serving dish and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley to garnish. Serve with jasmine rice, salad shirazi and a dollop of Greek yoghurt.

Originally published in The Costco Connection, Nov/Dec 2023. Pick up the latest copy at your local warehouse or read it online.