The first time I met my husband was in his kitchen. He was standing amid a mountain of empty pomegranate shells and the kitchen looked like a crime scene, with red juice splattered up the walls. He wanted to impress me with this fesenjan, a dish that was often found on the tables of Indian Mughal emperors in the 1500s and 1600s but was originally from Persia. Luckily, these days you can buy pomegranate molasses—which is what I told him (and it broke the ice). We got married last summer and now cook this dish together with good memories and much less mess.

NOTE: You will need a food processor to grind the walnuts.

Serves 4 as a main course

1¼ cups walnuts
4 medium eggplants (2¼ pounds)
canola oil
salt and ground black pepper
2 large red onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1½ tablespoons honey
¾ teaspoon ground red chile
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 cup hot vegetable stock
seeds from 1 pomegranate
a handful of cilantro

Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a large baking pan with lightly oiled foil. Blitz the walnuts in a food processor to a fine crumb and leave to one side.

Cut the eggplants into 2-inch x ¾-inch batons, toss with oil, season lightly with salt and black pepper, and roast on the baking pan for 25 minutes or until meltingly soft.

While the eggplants are roasting, make the fesenjan sauce. Put 3 tablespoons of oil into a large frying pan over a medium heat and, when hot, add the red onions. Fry for 12 minutes, stirring regularly to ensure they don’t burn, then add the garlic and fry for a further 3 minutes.

Add the honey, ground red chile, cinnamon, ½ teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, the blitzed walnuts, and the pomegranate molasses to the pan, and stir thoroughly to mix. Then add the vegetable stock and cook for around 8 minutes, until the sauce comes together.

When the eggplants are tender, pour the sauce into a serving dish. Put the eggplants on top, and scatter with the pomegranate seeds and cilantro. Serve alongside steamed basmati rice.