ARMENIA

The ‘Armenian Tricolour’ flag. The red band symbolises the Armenian Highland, the Armenian people’s continued struggle for survival, the maintenance of their Christian faith, and Armenia’s independence and freedom. The blue band represents the will of the people of Armenia to live beneath peaceful skies. The orange band emblematizes the creative talent and hard-working nature of the people of Armenia.
COUNTRYArmenia
DishesDolma, Manti, Rack of Lamb (made by friend Trisha!)
Time Dolma = 1.30 hrs, Manti = 2.30 hrs
Effort Dolma = 5/10, Manti = 8/10
Rough cost Dolma = £3, Manti = £8
COUNTRY Armenia
Capital Yerevan
Population 2, 951, 745
Land mass 29, 743 (138th largest)
Languages Armenian (own alphabet)
ReligionsChristianity

Food for Thought !

Armenia has an ancient cultural heritage, originating as a ‘kingdom’ in 860 BC. It has a history of being invaded by the likes of the Turks (1045) and the Ottoman Empire (16-19th cent.), under which 1.5 million ethnic Armenian’s were killed in the Armenian Genocide (1914-1923). However, Armenia then became a founding member of the Soviet Union in 1922.

Its cuisine is similar to Mediterranean cuisine, but it relies on the use of fresh herbs instead of spices to add flavour. The pomegranate is the fruit of the nation. The dolma that Bridget made are a staple side dish and can be made with a range of different fillings, traditionally mince. The manti made by Mwara are more of a celebration dish, and similarly use mince. Proper beef and crop grains are used a lot in Armenian cuisine due to the fertile plains of the Armenian Highlands.

Armenian Manti

When doing the research on Armenia this week I was struck by how rich and diverse the cuisine was and also by the incredible history of what must be a wonderful country to live in and to explore. It has definitely made it onto the list of countries I really want to visit.

These little open ravioli-type dumplings seem to be a firm favourite with food bloggers from Armenia. It is a dish they associate with family festivities when the kitchen is full of people working together to make a celebratory meal. The dumplings were a little bit fiddly to make but had such a wow factor coming to the table and were packed with flavour. Definitely a special occasion dish due to the time and effort involved but not expensive to make and less technical that I was expecting. A helping hand or two made the actual forming of the dumplings a less onerous task and then everyone felt they had a part in preparing the meal, which was great. Good luck!

INGREDIENTS

Dough

  • 3 cups white bread flour plus more as needed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup water (approximate)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Meat Filling

  • 1 pound minced beef or lamb
  • 1 small onion minced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika

Yogurt-Garlic Sauce

  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 3 cloves garlic finely chopped or crushed
  • Salt

Tomato sauce

  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • Salt, pepper and honey/sugar to taste

METHOD (it’s a long one!)

  1. To make the dough, fill a large mixing bowl with the flour and make a well in the centre. Beat together the eggs, salt, water, and olive oil. Add the wet ingredients to the well. Slowly incorporate the flour into the wet ingredients and knead until a ball of dough is formed. The dough may be a bit sticky so add a bit of flour as needed, and knead the dough until smooth. Cover the dough with a damp tea towel and set aside for 30 minutes.
  2. Mix together the ground beef, onion, parsley, salt, pepper, and paprika until well
    incorporated. Refrigerate until needed.
  3. Using a pasta roller or a rolling pin, in batches roll out the dough until it very thin, dusting the dough with flour as needed. You should just about be able to see through the dough to your counter underneath – that’s how you know it is thin enough!
  4. Cut each strip of dough into 1 1/2 inch squares using a pizza cutter, if you have one. I used a Clingfilm box that was just about the perfect width to measure the squares, which made the job a bit easier.
  5. Place a small teaspoon of meat filling rolled into a ball into the centre of each square and pinch the two ends with your fingers to form a canoe-shaped dumpling. I needed to very slightly wet the edges of the wrappers to make them stick together as the dough was drying out a bit before I got round to forming the dumplings. This is the fiddly bit – sometimes I was wetting the squares to stick them together, sometimes I was flouring my hands because everything was too sticky.
  6. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease your baking pans with butter and set aside.
  7. Repeat with the remaining dough and meat filling. Arrange the manti close together in the buttered pans. Brush the tops of the manti with melted butter and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown.
  8. Meanwhile, mix the yogurt and garlic, and season with salt. Set aside. Add the chicken broth and water to a saucepan and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer.
  9. When the manti are golden brown, remove the pans from the oven and ladle the broth mixture over the manti. The broth should fill the pan about 3/4 of the way up the manti. (Reserve the rest of the broth for serving if you want to put the dumplings in a soup. I served mine dry with the two sauces.) Return the pans to the oven and bake for 10 minutes longer until most of the broth is absorbed into the manti, and about 1/4-inch of broth remains on the bottom. They will have a firmer than al dente texture, with a slight crunch at the ends, but you can bake them longer with more of the broth if you want a slightly softer texture.
  10. Remove the pans from the oven and serve manti topped with yogurt-garlic sauce and tomato sauce. Enjoy!

Dolma (Armenian cabbage rolls) *vegan

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium green cabbage
  • 1 cup of rice
  • 1 cup of soy mince
  • 1 bag of cherry tomatoes, finely diced
  • splash of red wine (optional)
  • 1 tbsp veg stock
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 bunch of fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • salt + pepper to taste

METHOD

  1. Boil the cabbage in boiling salted water for 15 minutes with the lid slightly open. Allow cooked cabbage to cool.
  2. While the cabbage is boiling, cook the soy mince. Add the mince to 200 mls of water with the veg stock. Bring this to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has cooked off. If it is a bit watery then strain it. *I used less water and added some red wine instead, to give it a meatier flavour!
  3. In a large bowl, mix the uncooked rice, mince, coriander, tomatoes, salt, pepper and spices.
  4. Carefully peel off the cabbage leaves, trying to keep them whole.
  5. Take a leaf, place a little more than a tablespoon of the filling into the middle and then fold it like a burrito. Start by folding the two sides over, and then roll it up (see photos)!
  6. Tightly pack the rolled dolma into the bottom of a saucepan and secure them with a flat plate. Fill the pan up with water to the level of the dolma. Bring the water to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.
  7. Carefully drain any remaining water and serve!

Rack of Lamb

INGREDIENTS

  • 4  lamb racks of (8-rib rack)
  • 1 quart pomegranate juice
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • Pinch of Salt + Pepper

METHOD

  • Place lamb in a non-reactive pan with the onions and cover the lamb with the pomegranate juice
  • Marinate this ideally for 3 days
  • Remove the lamb from the marinade and pat it dry with a tea-towel
  • Season both sides of the lamb with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook lamb on a charcoal grill over medium hot coals until medium rare (approximately 10 minutes per side)
  • Serve with rice pilaf and your favorite grilled vegetables (and the rest of your Armenian feast!)
շնորհակալություն and see you in Australia! M + B

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