I'm glad I caught your attention with the name (and hopefully the picture) and you decided to read on. You are now thinking what in the world is that name? You might have heard the first word which is "Anaar, pomegranate in Farsi but you have no idea what the second word means. Well, you are not alone, I still don't know that :).
This dish comes from north part of Iran (we call it Shomal, it literally means north), the beautiful Gilaan and is a combination of pomegranate molases, walnuts, parsley and cilantro. It is very similar to Fesenjaan, another delicious Persian dish that is also made out of walnuts and pomegranate.
This isn't exactly a dish I grew up eating. My mom started making Anaar Avij for dinner parties when I was a teenager and it suddenly became one of her specialties. Ever since then, it has become my all time favorite Persian dish.
Here is the disclaimer, this is a sweet and sour dish in case you don't like sour in your food.
- 2 cups ground walnuts
- 1 cup finely chopped cilantro
- 1 cup finely chopped parsley
- 1 1/2 cup pomegranate molases (found in whole foods)
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 8 pieces of chicken thighs (you can mix thigh with breast and use 3 pieces of breast and 3 pieces of thighs )
- 1 Tbs corn starch or flour
- Salt and pepper to taste
(Note: the measurement for parsley and cilantro is for after it's chopped since they shrink a lot after being chopped).
Heat the oil in a medium size pan with some depth and cook the onions until they are golden . Don't use a lot of oil since walnuts when cooked are going to release a lot of oil. Cook the chicken with the onions until they are lightly golden. Add in the walnuts and mix well and cook for about 2 minutes. Be sure, to stir the mixture at all times since it can stick to the pan.
In a different pan, saute the chopped parsley and cilantro with a little bit of oil until the aroma is released. . Be careful not to overcook it, it can burn really easily. Add it in to the walnut mixture, mix well, add salt and pepper and the crushed garlic. Add in enough water to cover all the chicken and let it cook for about 20 minutes on low heat. Stir occasionally.
Here comes the fun part. Adding the pomegranate molases. Be sure that the chickens are cooked well before this step. Adding anything sour (in our case the molases) to chicken will prevent it from being cooked any further.
Cover and let it simmer on low heat for another 30 minutes until you see the oil from walnut is released. Dissolve the corn starch or flour in some water and add it to the stew. This will make it thicker. Cook for another 10 minutes and voila, you have Anaar Avij!
I like to serve this with rice and some saffron. What you see on top of my rice in the picture is Tahdig (the literall meaning is bottom of the pan) and is basically crip rice taken from bottom of the pan.