Slow Cooker Pomegranate Walnut Lentil Stew

A few months ago, I was reading about fesenjoon, a Persian stew that uses ground walnuts and pomegranate molasses to create a savory, sweet and sour flavor.  While there are variations in how to make the stew, it usually involves chicken or duck.  

This recipe takes inspiration from fesenjoon, but goes down a vegan rabbit hole.  I added thick cut carrots, meaty eggplant, chewy winter wheat berries, and brown lentils.  It worked out very nicely.  And while it is by no means an authentic Persian recipe, it is a delicious, comforting meal.

I was able to get everything into the slow cooker in about 25 minutes, including cleaning and chopping the vegetables, and prepping the simmering sauce.  It needs to slow cook for about 4-5 hours, so I think that's a pretty good investment of time.  And once you try it, woah!  Hearty, nourishing and full of delicious flavor.

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Slow Cooker Pomegranate Walnut Lentil Stew

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 medium red onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 ½ cups walnuts

½ cup pomegranate molasses (+more to adjust taste, if needed)

3 ½ cups broth (fake chicken or vegetable)

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp onion granules

1 cup brown lentils

1 cup winter wheat berries

1 cup eggplant, chopped into thick pieces

2 large carrots, thick cut

Salt

Pomegranate seeds, to serve - optional

Slow Cooker Pomegranate Walnut Lentil Stew

1. Add walnuts to a food processor and pulse until they have a mealy, crumbly appearance.  Set aside. 

Sauteed Onions and Walnuts

2.  In a large skillet over medium heat, add red onion, garlic, olive oil and a pinch of salt.  Sauté for about 10 minutes or until the red onion is transparent.  Add the ground walnuts, and saute for an additional 3 minutes over low heat.  Constantly stir the walnuts around to keep them from burning and to also evenly cook.  

3. Add the pomegranate molasses, 2 ½ cups of broth, cinnamon, cumin and onion granules.  Stir together, and simmer uncovered over low heat for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, add the remaining 1 cup of broth, the lentils, the wheat berries, eggplant and carrots to the slow cooker.  Pour the walnut-pomegranate simmering sauce into the slow cooker and stir to combine.  Secure the lid, and cook on HIGH for 4-5 hours—checking it at the 2 hour mark to give it a stir and add more water, if necessary.

4. Remove the lid, taste, and adjust seasonings (maybe a little more pomegranate molasses?).  Serve topped with fresh pomegranate seeds.

Slow Cooker Pomegranate Walnut Lentil Stew