This stew is a great representation of a dish in a culture that loves its fruits with their tart and sweet flavors! The chicken is cooked slowly with Persian spices (advieh), layered with carrots and saffron, and finished off with fresh orange segments before serving.
Orange is readily available year-round in every corner of the world. Citrus fruits are particularly popular in the northern part of Iran, by the Caspian Sea. In addition to lemons, limes, tangerines, and oranges, a wider variety of citrus fruits have found their way into Persian agriculture and consequently the Persian table. Bitter oranges, Seville oranges, and citron are just a few.
The significance of fruits goes beyond their culinary use and extends to a deeper part of the Iranian culture based on rituals and traditions. It’s important to always have a variety of fresh fruits on hand, just in case guests (mehmoon) arrive; when they do you greet them with a platter full of fresh fruits, nuts, and seeds and – of course – brewed tea in a samovar.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 4 pieces chicken, breasts and thighs with bones and skin
- 1 teaspoon turmeric, ground
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin, ground
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander, ground
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom, ground
- 1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper, ground
- 3 oranges. Zest all 3 oranges. Juice 1 orange. Slice 2 oranges into segments.
- 2 fresh limes, juiced
- 4 tablespoons sugar, adjust to your taste
- 1/2 cup water, adjust as needed
- 4 average carrots, cut into matchsticks
- 2 tablespoons orange blossom water, mixed with 1/4 teaspoon ground saffron
- In a large dutch oven, fry the chicken with 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium-high heat for 5 minutes on each side until lightly golden brown. Set aside.
- Discard all but about 2 tablespoons of fat remaining in the pan.
- To the same dutch oven add the sliced onion and saute for 10 minutes over medium-high heat until lightly golden browned.
- Add all the spices and continue to saute for an additional 2 minutes.
- Return the chicken to the dutch oven, add salt and pepper, juice of 1 orange, zest of 2 oranges, lime juice, sugar and water.
- Cover and cook over low heat for 65 to 75 minutes.
- While the chicken is cooking, saute the carrots in the remainder of 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat for about 6-8 minutes. Set aside.
- Once chicken has been cooking for 75 minutes, add the carrots and gently mix. Cover and cook over low heat for an additional 10 minutes.
- Add the orange blossom and saffron mixture and mix well. Gently place the orange segments over the chicken pieces and partially submerge into the sauce.
- Cover and cook over low heat for 5 minutes.
- Serve the stew on a serving platter with orange pieces arranged on top. Garnish with the remainder of the 1 orange zest.
- Serve with steamed basmati rice.