A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, is touted as “the first Iranian vampire Western.” If that sounds unique, it is – though strongly inspired by spaghetti westerns, Amirpour’s vision for the black and white film is exceedingly stylish and singular. It’s full of memorable, arresting imagery that often seems to be straight out of a graphic novel. The iconic example is the girl (the hypnotic Sheila Vand), on her skateboard, with her dark chador flapping behind her like a vampire cape. It also features a fantastic soundtrack, quite eclectic, sometimes energetic, often dreamy, and deeply woven into the film.
The characters of the desolate Bad City are archetypes, and the scenes range from masterfully tense to breathtakingly romantic (you know the one I’m talking about!). And though there are feminist themes running through the film, as well as themes of family, hopelessness, addiction, and death, at its beating heart it’s the story of a lonely, longing girl.
As the film is in Farsi, and the actors of Iranian descent, of course I went for a classic Persian dish. Fesenjan is a richly flavored stew, thick with walnuts and pomegranate molasses. I use gorgeous, sanguine pomegranate every chance I get, especially if there are vampires involved. The seeds snap satisfyingly in your mouth as tart as little blood vessels, and though the vibrant color is in stark contrast to the black and white film, it’s equally visually striking.
Most often fesenjan is made with poultry, but although the girl can be quite vicious, this recipe harkens to her gentler side and is vegetarian. (To be honest, it’s also because my husband is vegetarian and adores Middle Eastern food, so it would be cruel to make this delicious dish in a way that he couldn’t enjoy!). I used split chickpeas – also know as yellow split peas, chana dal, or particularly appropriately in this case, lapel dir paz. But you could also use Puy lentils, or any other lentil that holds it shape. Pomegranate molasses is available in Middle Eastern groceries, but you can also easily make it at home by boiling pomegranate juice down to a syrupy consistency.
Enjoy this lovely Iranian dish – a dish you can really sink your teeth into! – on a bed of fluffy white or saffron basmati rice.
Vegetarian Fesenjan (Persian Walnut and Pomegranate Stew)
- 1 cup walnuts
- 3 tablespoons oil or ghee
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup split chickpeas (preferably soaked 8 hours to overnight and drained, I forgot and it took quite a long time to cook)
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- chopped walnuts, mint leaves, pomegranate seeds, and/or yogurt for garnish
In a dry pan, toast the walnuts in a single layer, tossing occasionally, until toasty and fragrant. Transfer them to a food processor and blitz to a fine meal. Reserve.
Heat oil or ghee on medium-high, and cook onion, stirring, until deeply golden brown. Add garlic and stir for a minute or two until fragrant, add cumin and turmeric and stir for a minute or two to bloom, then stir in tomato paste and mix well. Add split chickpeas and vegetable broth, mix well, then bring to a boil and lower to a simmer. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally and adding water as needed (keep it a bit liquidy), until the lentils are tender. This may take as long as an hour, during which time you can dance around your kitchen to Farah’s Dancing Girls and contemplate your next kill. Stir in walnut meal and pomegranate molasses, and simmer 10 minutes or so more until the stew is thick. Serve over basmati rice with plenty of lovely garnishes. As with most stews, this is even better the next day when the flavors have had time to marry.
Sidenote, originally I was brainstorming a Tex Mex tie in but ultimately decided to go for a classic rather than a fusion dish. However, I will note that the characteristic ingredients of this dish, walnuts and pomegranate, are also key in the Mexican dish Chiles en Nogada, a stuffed poblano covered in walnut sauce and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. Leftovers of this may very well find their way into a stuffed pepper, or even tacos!
What’s for dinner in your home tonight? Need more horror-inspired recipes? See everything delectable dish in the Witchy Kitchen cookbook HERE and let us now your own recipes over Twitter, in the Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!