|Lena Tachdjian and friend!|
The Armenian Weekly recently ran an article written by (and about) Canadian Lena Tachdjian, a Certified Nutritional Practitioner (C.N.P.) who arrived in Armenia in 2011 as a strict vegan. At first Lena found it difficult to keep her veganism in check. To help sustain herself, she carried around vegan protein bars, which according to her ‘tasted like Play-doh’, and a suitcase filled with nutritional supplements.
As part of her nutritional journey, Lena created her own travel and nutrition blog, The Traveling Chamelian – Adapting without Compromising.
Good fortune introduced Lena to “the most wonderful vegan dish” she has ever eaten anywhere - Basooc Dolma (or BasutshTolma, according to my buddy Ara who just returned from Armenia).
According to Lena, this dolma is “served in a pickled cabbage leaf and contains lentils, chickpeas, red kidney beans, and grains (spelt or bulgur), mixed with spices. It is served cold and sometimes with dried apricot.” She continues that “it is a vegan’s dream come true – a complete protein packed with iron and B-12 (from the pickled cabbage), and is delicious.”
Intrigued by the idea of this dish, I emailed Lena asking for the recipe. She responded swiftly with an English translation of it, noting some important points:
“I have roughly translated it (into English)! Everything seems correct except for the cabbage part. The basooc dolma I know has pickled cabbage that you do not cook after the pickling, and that is the traditional way, but in this recipe they cook the cabbage and do not pickle it. I will ask around and see if I can get the pickled recipe, but for now this is the recipe translated.”
Pickled cabbage update:
As for the cabbage, Lena’s friend said this:
"You add the cabbage leaves to 40-50 gram (about 2 ½ to 3 Tbsp.) of salt to 1 liter (approx. 4 cups) of water for about 2 weeks. If you want it to take less days, you can put the leaves in boiling water for a few seconds just before you put it in salt."
700 grams (approx. 3 cups) of olive oil
-1 kg (2.2 lbs. or about 4 cups) onion, chopped
-0.5 kg (about 2 cups) dried red beans, precooked
-0.5 kg (about 2 cups) dried peas, precooked
-0.5 kg (about 2 cups) dried chickpeas, precooked
-0.5 kg (about 2 cups) lentils (uncooked)
-300-400 gram (about 12 oz. or 1 ½ cups) grains (spelt or cracked wheat, aka bulgur)
-250 g (about 1 ¼ cups) rice (uncooked)
-2 tablespoons salt
1TBSP. red pepper (paprika, or perhaps Aleppo red pepper – definitely NOT cayenne!)
black pepper (how much you prefer)
4 TBSP tomato paste
dried tsitron and basil (however much you like), cilantro (however much you like), parsley (however much you like)
(Fresh or dried savory might not be readily available in all locations. Ground savory is generally available in the spice section of grocery stores.)
1 large head of cabbage
Robyn’s note: My thought is that one can use canned red beans, such as kidney beans, and canned chick peas to speed things up, although this might be frowned upon in Armenia!)
How to prepare:
In the olive oil, add the chopped up onions and place it on the stove to cook. When the onions become golden, add 1 TBSP red pepper (paprika or Aleppo red pepper), the dried tsitron (if available) and very little basil, and leave them to cook together, at least for 5 minutes. After that, add 4 TBSP tomato paste, and wait a couple of minutes, so that it will cook. Then the cooked red beans, the peas, the chickpeas, and the lentils (not cooked/boiled), the grains and the rice. Mix all of this very well together, and then add 1 TSBP salt, chopped cilantro and parsley. Again, mix it well, cover the pot and leave it for about 30 minutes.
The Cabbage: (the un-pickled version)
Add 6 cups of water to another pot, and add 1 TSBP of salt. At that time, get the large head of cabbage, and remove the leaves from the stem. When the water begins to boil, add the leaves into the boiling water. When the leaves of the cabbage become softer/tender, remove them add put them into cold water right away. Then you can cut out the very tough areas of the cabbage leaves, so that they will not interfere when you are wrapping the dolma.
You can then open the cabbage leaves in your palm, and if they are very large and you are having trouble, you can also place them on a cutting board. Add about 1-2 of the filling and wrap the dolma in a very beautiful manner.
In another pot, add some cabbage leaves to the bottom, and begin placing the wrapped dolmas on top. You can then cook it for about 30 minutes. This dish is eaten cold.