How to win an Armenian Cookbook

This cookbook WILL be mine. All I have to do is come up with an Armenian recipe that rocks. The trouble is, I don’t come across much fancy Armenian food, not least because the simple stuff is so good. Most days at lunch this summer we have eaten chopped tomato and cucumber (fresh from a co-worker’s garden) enlivened with purple basil and maybe some fresh dill, plus salt and pepper. On the evenings when I eat with the family upstairs, we might have fresh steamed green beans, scrambled with an egg, or chicken broth with zucchini, carrot, onion, garlic and fresh parsley padded out with rice, vermicelli and potato. (What’s not to love about a soup with three kinds of starch?) There is special occasion food of course–river trout at Easter, khorovats on birthdays, and tables groaning with all kinds of sweets and savories at new year (Nor Tari-the biggest celebration of the year). Much of this involves pastry, which I avoid in the kitchen, fearing all recipes involving dough. (I blame this on a scarring early-teen experience when I mistakenly made shortbread with lard, which I mistook for margarine).

FullSizeRender (2) I have decided to prioritize taste over glamor– always a rule to live by–and am submitting my version of Elsa’s Famous Faux Pate. Elsa and her family were my first hosts in Armenia. I lived with them for three months in Ararat Marz when I was completing my Peace Corps Pre-Service Training. Elsa is the best cook in all Armenia.




Elsa’s Famous Faux Pate.

You will need:


5 fistfuls of red beans

2 fistfuls of walnuts

At least two cloves of garlic

A handful of dill

A food processor, meat grinder or, failing that, a potato masher, a paper bag and a hammer.

Salt and pepper or broth to taste

Bread to serve with the pate

What to Do

Soak the beans overnight, or while you are at work during the day

Rinse the well-swelled beans and pick out anything floating.

Put the beans in a pot with salted water and perhaps a bay leaf– or use a vegetable or chicken broth– and boil until soft. It can take up to an hour.

Drain the beans but save a cup of the boiled broth

Mash the beans, adding back a little broth

Smash the walnuts into fragments no bigger than the size of a peppercorn. Smaller is even better.

Mince at least two cloves of garlic

Chop the dill finely.

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. If you need a little liquid to help it bind together, use a judicious amount of broth.

Salt and pepper to taste

Marvel at how much the mix looks like a coarse, dark French-style pate as you pile it onto a serving plate, or press it into a small bowl or two

Top with fronds of dill

Serve with warm toasted bread.

Sit back and listen to your guests oh and aah with pleasure.

I just know this recipe is a winner, but if you’d like to compete to rob me of the cookbook you can read the newsletter (in English) from the Armenian Institute in London, paying particular attention to the article on cookery. You can then submit your own Armenian recipe at

This is the link to the newsletter. Bardez 2017-Wii




About Liz Barron

Returned US Peace Corps Volunteer (Armenia 17-19). Permanent address in Washington DC. Deep roots in Northern Ireland and persistent Belfast accent. Blogger, cook, painter, mother, grandma, Scrabble-player and enthusiastic world traveller.
This entry was posted in Armenia, Armenian Institute London, Bardez, Cooking, Cross-cultural understanding, family, Food, friendship, Household tips, Peace Corps, Things that gladden the heart, Things that make a difference, travel, Village life, Women. Bookmark the permalink.

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