Our resident chef columnist Mark Hix has a fool-proof Persian dish that will spice up game season

 
Mark Hix
Use a festive pomegranate

As we are in game season, people are always asking me for alternative game dishes. I usually recommend Fesenjan, a Persian dish traditionally made with duck, lamb or chicken. But for our purposes, it also works well with wild or pintail duck and widgeon. You could use pheasant, too – especially as the first part of the name,’faisan’, is the French word for pheasant.


We’re also a tad short of British fruits this time of year, but pomegranates – that staple of Persian cuisine – should be at their best now and I always think they look and taste particularly festive.

The trouble is, we often don’t know what to do with pomegranates, or wild ducks come to that, so this dish kills two birds with one recipe.

Fesenjan

Serves 4


Ingredients

  • 2 oven-ready wild ducks
  • 1tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2tsp ground cinnamon
  • A good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • A good pinch of saffron strands
  • 1/2tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1tsp tomato purée
  • 100g ground walnuts
  • 1.5litres chicken stock
  • 2 pomegranates, halved and the seeds scooped out (don't worry about a bit of pith)
  • 1tbsp brown sugar
  • Salt

Method

  • Pre-heat the oven to 230°C/gas mark 8. Halve the ducks with a heavy chopping knife, cutting away any excess backbone without any meat on it, and lay skin-side-up in a roasting tray.
  • Season lightly with salt and roast for about 20 minutes until nicely coloured.
  • Meanwhile, in a large pan or flameproof casserole dish, gently cook the onions in the vegetable oil with the cinnamon, nutmeg, saffron and black pepper for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally until soft.
  • In a blender, turn half the pomegranate seeds to a purée with a spoonful or so of the stock. Then add this with the whole pomegranate seeds, sugar, tomato purée, walnuts and chicken stock to the onions.
  • Cut each halved duck in half again and trim any bones away. Add duck to the sauce, cover the pan, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 1 hour. Skim every so often. The sauce should have thickened. If not, remove the pieces of duck and return the pan to a medium heat and cook until it has reduced and thickened, stirring to prevent it sticking.
  • Serve with basmati rice or Persian-style rice, which is boiled until all the water has evaporated then finished in a pan with butter on a medium flame to give it a crisp base.


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