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Braised Lamb with Pomegranates and Chestnuts

Nar, nar, more nar! This is what the family has been saying the most ever since nars (pomegranates) hit the Long Beach markets stalls about a month ago. We buy loads of nar. And we have nar eating sessions every day. Even our dog is addicted. He eagerly joins our sessions,  and we all munch on the the crunchy juicy  seeds, the dog shamelessly sending the juices to the floor while we the humans, to our faces. When I want the floor and our faces clean, I cook with pomegranates. Like I did yesterday, when I made this classic Azerbaijani dish called Nar Govurmasi.

The dish hails from the region of Goychay in Azerbaijan, the pomegranate capital of Azerbaijan. There dozens of pomegranate varieties grow in each and every front and back yard and vast orchards across the region.  Juicy pomegranates with flavors that run from tart and tangy to sweet,  with seeds that are burgundy, red and even white, with skins that can be red, pink, or white – Goychay is a blissful paradise for pomegranate enthusiasts.

Because of the fruit’s abundance, cooking with pomegranates is a common practice in the region and numerous dishes, both sweet and savory, are prepared with their ruby seeds. Nar Govurmasi is one such dish.  In this dish, the meat (traditionally, lamb is used, but veal is a great substitute) is first fried with the onions, then chestnuts are added to it. A little broth on top and a dash of saffron, and the dish is simmered until the meat is fully cooked. Pomegranates are added at the very last stage and a great care is taken not to overcook them – they should remain fresh and never lose their crunchiness. Sometimes, the pomegranates seeds are not cooked at all: instead, they are added to individual serving plates, to taste.

This is an unusual dish worth trying now that pomegranates and chestnuts are at their peak. You’ll be intrigued by its taste.



BRAISED LAMB with POMEGRANATES and CHESTNUTS

Nar Govurmasi

Note: Typically, saffron infusion is added to jazz up the flavor of the dish, but if not available, use a generous pinch of turmeric powder instead (no need to dissolve in water).

Serves 4

2 pounds (900g) boneless or bone-in lamb (such as breast, shoulder or leg), cut into medium size serving pieces (substitute with veal)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, peeled, cut into half lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise
4 cups blanched and shelled chestnuts
salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads
2 tablespoons water
2 cups pomegranate seeds (preferably a tangy variety)

Put the meat in a medium saucepan and fill it with water, enough to just cover the meat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook until the meat is no more pink inside, about 20 minutes. During that time, with a slotted spoon, skim off the froth that may surface to top. Strain the meat through a fine-mesh strainer, reserving the broth (you will need some of it later). Put the meat on a separate plate.

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until light golden, about 10 minutes. Add the meat to the onion and cook together, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes (the onions will almost melt down).

Add the chestnuts to the meat. Using a mortar and pestle, powder saffron threads (you should obtain about a pinch of powder), then dissolve the powder in 2 tablespoons hot water. Add the saffron-water along with 1 cup reserved broth to the pan with the meat. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Cover and cook stirring occasionally (too much stirring may break the chestnuts) for about 30 minutes, or until the meat is fully cooked and the chestnuts are tender (they must hold their shape). If you are going to serve immediately, add the pomegranate seeds, cover and simmer over for 5 more minutes. If you are going to serve later, add the pomegranates just before serving and cook briefly. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with bread or as a topping to rice pilaf. Nush Olsun! Enjoy!

A naughty two-year-old boy:”My, my Nar!”

29 Comments
  1. Anar it is in Hindi and we cannot have enough of this either. This is my daughter’s favorite fruit and she waits all year long for this season to stain her face and hands and lips with ;-)

    we do not much cook with it in India.. it is only eaten fresh and fresh juice. Lovely recipe and beautiful pictures here.

  2. Lovely combination of tastes and textures.

  3. Nar has become one of my favorites since I learnt its benefits to health. I do love its color and crunchy texture. Many people find it difficult to eat nar, but I think it’s a funny activity when done together just like you and your family do. We have some dishes containing chestnuts and lamb together in Turkish cuisine, but originally, we don’t add nar on them. It’s a wonderful idea to see them shining on such dishes! I love using nar to decorate dishes. And although it’s not something traditional, I sometimes decorate meat dishes with nar. Your braised lamb looks just perfect with its shining pearls.

  4. Beautiful dish, querida Fari. But that sneaky little hand in the last photo stole the show.

    I live for pomegranates—both, its ruby color and taste. Not to mention that beating the fruit with a rolling pin to release the seeds is about the best way to relieve stress, and it’s kind of fun.

    Have a great weekend Fari!

  5. What a fabulous combination! That dish is lovely!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  6. I love pomegranates en this dish is lovelllllllllly

    Thanks Fari.

    Jamila

  7. Great mixture and receipt.Yeah,I learnt a new word Nar.Wanna speak your language one day

    Thanks,will follow your posts

  8. This dish must be wonderful! Chestnuts are one of my favourite foods and I love pomegranate too… worth a try.

  9. Mmm! I love pomegranate so much too!! I can never have enough of it either! This is definitely an interesting combination. =) Thank you for sharing!

    P.S. Oh, that sneaky little hand is so adorable!! ;)

  10. Feride, nar is one of my favorite fruits. I have a post on nar also, however I have never cooked with it. Your recipe with nar sounds excellent. Thanks for sharing.

  11. My two daughters have finally developed a taste for pomegranates, making me very happy! I love it in fruit custards and salads, and of course samosa fillings. But I can’t wait to try it this way. Thanks for the recipe!

  12. We call it annaru in our language :) , I love pomergranates, completely addicted to them is more the word, But have never used them in making savory dishes, cant wait to try your idea :)

  13. A delightful meal, Farida!! A feast for the eyes & mouth,…hahahaha!

  14. Pomegranates are stupidly expensive and tasteless in the UK. :(((( My mother often brings them over ( however many she can sneak in and if she is visiting in the right time of year)

  15. I’ve never cooked/baked with Pomengrantes…or figs for that matter..or Kaki (Sharon Fruit/Persimmons) so now, this in on my list of TTD

  16. aw, i love the little hand going after the seeds, and i actually prefer the term “nar” to “pomegranate”–it rolls off the tongue much easier! great dish–it’s a lovely and tasty way to make use of those pretty seeds!

  17. We say nar for pomegranates in Serbia also! :))

    Beautiful dish, I love that it uses chestnuts.

  18. How interesting! I just bought some chestnuts and was wondering what kind of savory dish to cook them in. I see some Persian influence in that dish or is it the other way around?!

  19. Indeed a great post:) Pome’ is very pricy thing here, but its worth buying them, esp’ after seeing ur post…I like the last picure with baby’s hands …so sweet.

  20. Nar, I just learned a new word :-) Love your dish, although I am not a fan of lamb, this one looks delicious.

  21. This sounds like a truly wonderful combination of flavors!

  22. a mate of mine once mate a dish very similar to this for us and it was something authentic to his heritage – so authentic he couldn’t spell it! but this really takes me back. it’s such a beautiful dish and i loved the combination of lamb and pomegrenate :)

  23. FRIENDS, thank you for your comment. I love reading them:)

  24. Thanks for visiting again Farida. It has been indeed a long time. With pomegranates and chestnuts in abbundance the dish sounds fantastic. Love that little cute hand :)

  25. farida!! this is great!! ive never tried nehting like this before!! thanx for sharing!!
    cheers!!

  26. That looks so beautiful! Your blog is just awe inspiring!

  27. wow farida… this looks amazing. the chestnuts alone w/ the lamb is making me think about various flavors combos. great dish.

  28. Do you know of a similar dish but with a sweet twist, in addition to the chestnuts, it has dried apricots and raisins, called Ash or something like that and served during Novruz? Would love to see that recipe, its absolutely delish!

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