Friday, April 26, 2013

Meat-filled Crepes

Erica Vendetti, a Peace Corps volunteer stationed in Armenia, was introduced to a delicious crepe entrĂ©e by her host mother. Now that Erica is living on her own in Armenia, she wishes to recreate the dish she referred to as ‘blinshiek’. 
She contacted The Armenian Kitchen for help.

Erica said her host mother never used specific measurements, but rather, cooked by ‘feel’. The dish was described as a meat-filled crepe that’s rolled up and then fried again in a pan, and that it’s usually made for ‘Nur Tari’ (New Year).

My Armenian cookbooks revealed no such recipe, but the internet did. I found a recipe for meat-stuffed crepes – or –blinchiki, a dish of Russian origin. This didn’t come as a surprise to me. Since Armenia was once part of the Soviet Republic, some of their recipes may well have ended up in Armenian kitchens – including blinchiki.

Erica was delighted when I mentioned this to her; she commented, “Funny, every Armenian I've met in Armenia says it’s "haykakan" food. I'm not surprised if it has Russian origins. A lot of the words people in Armenia use are also Russian because they no longer use the Armenian word—it’s an interesting blend of cultures here!”

Erica then offered her thoughts on the crepe batter and a suggestion for the meat filling:
“I know here (in Armenia) Jermuk - the carbonated water - is used.
From what I could tell, the crepe batter was made with about 1 cup carbonated water, 1 liter milk, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3 tablespoons oil, 3 cups flour and 3 eggs.
Of course, there's always cilantro in the meat for seasoning.”

My suggestion for a more Armenian-style ‘Meat - Stuffed Blinchiki would be this:

Prepare your favorite (non-sweet) crepe recipe, or purchase ready-made ones from your grocer. Fill each with one or two tablespoons of kufteh meechoog – again, your own recipe or my recipe below. 
Fold the sides and roll the end up to create an envelope.
Heat a lightly greased skillet over medium heat. Cook the stuffed crepe until light brown on both sides. 
Place on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb any excess grease. 
Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of plain, thick yogurt.
Kufteh Meechoog

Robyn's Kufteh Meechoog
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. ground lamb, beef, or turkey
salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, washed and finely chopped (or in this case fresh cilantro)
ground coriander, allspice, black pepper, paprika to taste
1/4 cup to 1/3 cup pine nuts
1. In a skillet, melt the butter, then add olive oil to heat. Add chopped onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft - about 10 to 15 minutes.
2. In a separate skillet, cook the ground meat until it is no longer pink. Drain any excess fat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Add meat to the skillet with the onions. Stir in the remaining seasonings, parsley, and pine nuts. Cook for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

In Remembrance...

(Image from

We're devoting April 24th to the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, with sincere hopes and prayers for a more peaceful world in the years to come. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Another C.K. Garabed recipe featuring Chormis and Kavourma

While we’re on the subject of chormis and kavourma, here’s another one of C.K. Garabed’s Dikranagerdtsi recipes, choulama – an omelet featuring those two distinctively delicious meats.
(Photos courtesy of Lucine Kasbarian)

Choulama (omelet)  
Serves 4

8 tbs. kavourma
4 slices chormis, diced
8 eggs, beaten
4 tbs. Vinegar
4 tbs. Vegetable oil
Step #1: Chormis, left; kavourma, right

1. Mix kavourma and chormis with eggs in a bowl.
2. Heat vegetable oil in frying pan over flame.
Step #3
3. Ladle small portions of mixture into frying pan.
4. Turn over omelets to cook on both sides.
5. Place in dish and pour drops of vinegar on omelets.
Choulama ready to serve!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

C.K. Garabed shares some of his Dikranagerdtsi recipes

Some of you might know of C.K.Garabed through his column in the Armenian Weekly, 'from Uncle Garabed's Notebook'.
Others know him as a man of many talents. In fact, there is a host of information about him on - his biography sheds light on his numerous gifts.
Biography: C. K. Garabed, Actor, Aphorist, Archivist, Chef, Columnist, Commentator, Composer, Critic, Editor, Essayist, Folk Dancer, Inventor, Lecturer, Lexicographer, Painter, Photographer, Playwright, Poet, Political cartoonist, Record Producer, Stand-up Comedian, Vocalist.” (Notice the word 'chef' in bold, red print!)
A project of C.K.'s (currently in progress) is a cookbook, ‘The Dikranagerd Mystique Armenian Cookbook’, which is dedicated to the unique recipes from the region of Dikranagerd. 
Being one-half Dikranagerdtsi myself, this speaks to my heart.

C.K. and his daughter, Lucine, have sent me some of their family favorite recipes to share with you. I’ll be posting them in spurts, so be on the look-out for a few of their Dikranagerdtsi specialties.

Today I'm offering you two of his recipes - chormis - dried, ground lamb, and jenjig, a chormis, kavourma, and egg stew. There’s a BIG catch:  in order to prepare this, you must already have chormis and kavourma on hand. You can purchase a ready-made chormis in most Middle Eastern stores, but kavourma, well, that’s something that must be made at home. Check out Onnik Dinjkian’s recipe for kavourma. (Did I mention that Onnik and C.K. are close, long-time friends?)

Lucky for us, C.K. also sent me his Chormis recipe, just in case you are daring enough to try it. Please note, it isn't quite chormis-making season, although I understand some folks make it year-round and dry it out in the refrigerator.

Chormis or Chormees (literal meaning: dried meat)

Chormis (Dried Ground Lamb) 
Recipe from C.K. Garabed
(Best made around Thanksgiving Day. If possible, purchase leg or shoulder of lamb, and bone and cut into pieces to grind. Use an old hand-cranked meat grinder that has interchangeable grinders, and use the 3 pronged grinder to get kernels of meat.)

5 lbs. Ground lamb
2 tbsp. Ground cumin
4 tsp. Ground coriander seed
4 tsp. Ground allspice
2 tbsp. Salt
1 tsp. Ground hot red pepper
2 tbsp. Ground black pepper
12 cloves crushed garlic
5 muslin bags (6” x 12” w/opening at one end)

Add spices to meat and knead thoroughly. Then add crushed garlic and knead again.

Place mixture in bags and press the meat to fill the closed end. Leave two inches at open end to roll with a dowel and tie the ends with string or rubber bands. Take another piece of string and make loops at the ends and slip them over the ends of the dowel. 
Then hang in a cold outside area. (Space between screen and glass of sliding patio doors is ideal, as it will protect the chormis from animals.)
Meat will dry in two weeks of cold weather. It can continue to be left outdoors so long as the temperature is not freezing. Otherwise it should be stored in a refrigerator.
When cured, chormis can be pan-fried and eaten as an appetizer or with fried eggs, or it can be mixed with other ingredients for various recipes.

And now for Jenjig:
Bowl on left: Chormis; Bowl on right: Kavourma (Photos courtesy of Lucine Kasbarian)

C.K.'s Jenjig     (A chormis, kavourma, and egg stew)
Serves 4 - 6 
2 cups (1 lb.) kavourma
8 slices chormis**, diced
4 eggs, beaten
½ cup lemon juice (Note from C.K.: Don't spare the lemon juice)
4 cups water
1 loaf hard crust Armenian flat bread

Place kavourma and chormis in stockpot.
Cover with water, and cook over flame until boiling.
Add beaten eggs and lemon juice, and let simmer until eggs are hard.
Dunk bread slices in broth.

A few more notes from C.K.: 
** If one is pressed for time, one can use the soujoukh available in Armenian food stores, in lieu of chormis.

This recipe can be modified to suit your own taste.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Agra Hadig, another Armenian Tradition

When asked what the significance was of “Agra Hadig”, I scoured my resources. A vague recipe, and very little information was all I found.

Doug and I had never done ‘agra hadig’ with our daughter, nor do I recall my sister doing this with her children. I seriously doubt that this tradition was done with my siblings and me, either – at least I never heard mention of it. I do know that “agra” means teeth, and “hadig” is a grain dish, but that’s about it.

Modern technology to the rescue …
I discovered a wealth of information about agra hadig from The Library of Congress, CA, with a submission by Jim Rogan, Representative (27th District).

Here’s what is written:
“Armenian First Tooth"
"The centuries-old Armenian tradition agra hadig is celebrated worldwide by Armenians, no matter where they live -- Armenia, Turkey, Lebanon, Iran, or the U.S. Agra means "tooth," and hadig refers to a traditionally cooked wheat dish eaten on this occasion. The agra hadig celebrates the appearance of the baby's first tooth. The mother props the infant up on a table or on the floor and places five objects in front of the child; the first object the baby selects predicts his or her future occupation. Before the child makes the selection, its head is covered using a veil or a scarf, onto which some hadig is sprinkled to signify a wish for fruitfulness.
If the child picks up a book or a Bible, s/he will be a scholar, teacher, or clergyperson; if the child chooses money, s/he will become a banker, financier or wealthy person; if the baby selects a hammer, s/he will be in the building trades; a knife symbolizes a doctor or a surgeon; and scissors foretell a life as a seamstress or tailor. In afternoon celebrations, only females attend and only sweet foods are served. When the party is held in the evening, males also attend, and a full Armenian buffet dinner is served. Although merriment prevails, underlying the gaiety is a genuine concern for the future well-being of the child, its social status and its economic prosperity. While the first tooth sets the timing for this divinatory event among Armenians, in other cultures, it frequently occurs when the child is one year old. Storytelling is an integral part of "first tooth" celebrations, and gifts are brought for the baby.”
Thank you, Library of Congress, and Jim Rogan!

What prompted me to write about agra hadig now, is that we witnessed this event the day after our great-nephew’s christening to celebrate his emerging teeth. For the record, our little one selected a book – a very scholarly choice, indeed!  

The following recipe was prepared by our niece-in-law (the baby’s mother), and her mother.
Agra Hadig
Agra Hadig

2 cups wheat pelted** (wheat berries, quinoa, or large couscous may be substituted)
Wheat Pelted
(Pelted wheat can be found in Middle Eastern grocery stores)
4 cups water (more if needed)
1 cinnamon stick (NOTE: 2 tsp. ground cinnamon may be stirred into the cooked wheat if a cinnamon stick is unavailable)
4 Tbsp. brown sugar, or to taste
About 1 c. assorted chopped nuts (almonds, pistachios, walnuts, etc.)
Any of the following:
Raisins, chopped dried apricots, pomegranate arils, dried cranberries, etc.
NOTE: Reserve some of the chopped nuts and fruit to sprinkle on top as garnish.
**NOTE: Wheat pelted or pelted wheat is wheat kernels that have been cleaned, pearled and polished.
1. Rinse the pelted wheat and place in a medium to large heavy pot. Add 4 cups water, one 3-inch cinnamon stick, and bring to a boil. Cover pot; reduce heat and simmer on medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed – about 40 minutes. If wheat is too firm after 40 minutes, add some hot water and continue cooking until wheat is tender. Discard cinnamon stick.
(Note: if using another type of grain, follow package directions for cooking.)
2. Strain wheat through a colander. Place in a bowl, cool, cover and refrigerate until serving time.
3. Just before serving stir in the 4 Tbsp. brown sugar, most of the nuts and fruit pieces.
4. Arrange wheat mixture on a serving platter. Sprinkle the remaining chopped nuts and fruits on top as a garnish.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hassa – Our Family's Recipe for Christenings

Our family is happy to announce the start of a new generation! Our nephew and his wife had a darling baby boy recently, and we just returned from attending his christening.

Being strong on tradition, my sister and I  prepared a recipe that’s always been served at family christenings … hassa. I’ve written about – and posted – this recipe before but did not have a recipe photo to attach.
Sis and I worked as a long-distance team to prepare the hassa. I provided the powdered chick peas and spices (from FL), and my sister got the candied ingredients from her favorite Middle Eastern store in NJ. Once we joined forces in Washington, DC, we combined our ingredients to create the final product.

 1 lb. unsalted chick peas, roasted and ground into a powder*
 1/3 lb. candy-covered chick peas (set some aside for decoration) *
 1/3 lb. candy-covered almonds (set some aside for decoration) *
 1/4 lb. candy-covered fennel or anise seeds *
Candy-covered ingredients
 dash nutmeg
 ½ tsp. cinnamon
 ½ tsp. ground anise seed
 ½ tsp. ground fennel seed
 dash ground cardamom*
 ½ cup powdered sugar
 * The starred ingredients can be found in most Middle Eastern grocery stores.
Grinding chick peas into a powder
1. Ground chick peas in a blender or food processor. Sift and re-grind any coarse pieces until powdery. Place in a large bowl.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients to the powdered chick peas, and mix thoroughly.
Sifting and regrinding chick peas
 3. Top with candies that were set aside for decoration.
 NOTE: Spices can be adjusted according to your taste preference.