Duck breast with ‘fesenjun’ sauce

Duck breast with ‘fesenjun’ sauce

Mark Roper

Fesenjun, one of the celebrated classics of Persian cuisine, is always brought out for special occasions or to honour invited guests. There’s no denying the appeal of this exotic sweet–sour–earthy sauce, traditionally served with strongly flavoured game birds, such as duck or pheasant. These days, in truth, most Iranians make fesenjun with a humble chicken, but the combination also works surprisingly well with firm white fish, and it is often served this way in the Caspian Sea area.

In classic fesenjun recipes the bird is cooked in the sauce itself, but I like the firmer consistency of roasted whole duck or, as here, pan-fried duck breasts. Either way, the dish is extremely rich, and needs only plain chelow rice and perhaps a few peppery herbs by way of accompaniment.


Quantity Ingredient
2 x 200g duck breasts
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon honey
generous splash boiling water
1/2 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
seeds 1 pomegranate, to garnish

Fesenjun sauce

Quantity Ingredient
200g shelled walnuts
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
250ml pomegranate juice, (freshly squeezed if available)
55g sugar
1 bay leaf
400ml good quality chicken stock
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 lemon, juiced


  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. To make the sauce, roast the walnuts on a baking tray for 5–10 minutes until a deep golden brown. Tip the nuts into a tea towel and rub well to remove as much skin as possible, then set aside until cool. Pulse the cooled nuts in a food processor until coarsely ground – you want to maintain some texture and a few chunky bits, so be careful not to overdo it.
  2. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over a low heat. Add the onion and fry gently until soft and translucent. Stir in the spices and tomato paste and fry for another couple of minutes. Add the walnuts to the pan with the pomegranate molasses and juice, the sugar, bay leaf and stock. Bring to a boil, then add the salt, lower the heat and simmer gently for 1 hour, stirring regularly, until rich, thick and a little oily
  3. Meanwhile, score the duck skin in a crisscross pattern with a sharp knife and season generously with salt and pepper. In a small saucepan, warm the honey over a gentle heat with the water and the pomegranate molasses, then stir in the pepper and cardamom seeds to make a glaze
  4. Heat the oil in a heavy-based roasting pan over a medium–high heat until hot. Add the duck breasts, skin-side down, then lower the heat and cook for about 5 minutes until the skin turns golden brown and the fat starts to render. Turn the breasts over and cook for a further 4 minutes.
  5. Tip the rendered fat from the pan and brush the skin with the glaze. Turn the breasts, skinside down again, and cook over a low–medium heat for a final 4 minutes; at this stage it’s really important not to have the heat too high or the glaze will burn.
  6. Remove from the heat and rest in a warm place for several minutes – when carved the duck breasts should be medium–rare.
  7. When ready to serve, add the lemon juice to the sauce, then taste and adjust the seasoning to achieve a good sweet–sour–earthy balance. Spoon a generous amount of sauce onto each plate. Slice each duck breast into chunks and stack on top. Scatter on the pomegranate seeds and serve straight away
Middle Eastern
Back to top
    No results found
    No more results
      No results found
      No more results
        No results found
        No more results
          No results found
          No more results
            No results found
            No more results
              No results found
              No more results
              Please start typing to begin your search
              We're sorry but we had trouble running your search. Please try again