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).
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 email@example.com
This is the link to the newsletter. Bardez 2017-Wii