Keeping Traditions Alive
We don’t even want to think about how long it’s been since our last post. Truth be told, we just took a break. We worked on our book in progress (unrelated to blog) and Óli enjoyed sailing around Sweden in his new sailboat. Sometimes you just need a break.
So now he’s visiting in Virginia Beach (no boat) and we are back to cooking. One evening, talk lead to how much we enjoy food that has tradition and history behind it. So we popped over to Google and found not only a food tradition, but also a culinary challenge. Today we present to you Armenian Khash, Lavash and Tamada. (It’s all about tradition.)
Very simply, Khash is a soup. Well, soup is not so challenging you say. We beg to differ. Cow’s feet, tripe and calf tongue can be a challenge to find and dare I say, consume. We found all of the ingredients and made this surprisingly satisfying and tasty soup. After the fact, we discovered that tripe and calf tongue are optional.
Ah well . . .
We learned that Khash is an Armenian wintertime institution and ceremony for the men – sort of a bonding ritual if you will. It’s primarily a men’s meal, prepared outside in the dead of winter by men who spend the entire night cooking. Actually just boiling cows’ feet, aka trotters.
In the morning big deep bowls of steaming hot khash are ready to be served up and the khash ritual continues. When you are presented with a bowl of khash, the first thing to do is remove the meat in your bowl to a plate. Next you add to the broth the only two seasonings strictly allowed by tradition: garlic and salt. Today you might also find yellow chili peppers and greens as part of the condiment selection. So the soup is really a salty garlic broth. Next you should remove the meat from the bone and add the meat back into your seasoned soup.
Crispy lavash bread is crumbled into the soup until it soaks up all of the broth and then a whole piece of the flatbread is placed atop the bowl so the soup doesn’t get cold.
It’s all washed down with vodka – lots of vodka and toasts or tamada. This is a country where traditionally many toasts are made at gatherings and parties. However during the khash ceremony only three are made. The 1st is for the people who have joined the early morning party, forsaking important things they should be doing. The 2nd is for the cooks who cooked all night and the 3rd is for the khash that has brought everyone around the table.
Óli didn’t stay up all night to cook the trotters therefore our soup is not as thick and heavy as the traditional version. We did serve it with the requisite salt, garlic and lavash. We also put out small bowls of sliced radish, paprika, greens and lemons.
Trepidation aside, this was a pretty enjoyable soup. Of course a little bit of vodka helped!
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3 cows’ feet (trotters) cut in two
1 calf tongue
1/2 pound cow tripe
- Soak the trotters in cold water for about 24 hours. Change the water at least 4 times during that time.
- Place the trotters in a large soup pot filled with fresh water and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease heat to medium, cover and cook for about 2 hours. Skim and discard the gray, foamy protein that rises to the top.
- Add the tongue and tripe to the trotters. Continue to cook and skim for another 3 hours or until meat easily separates from the bones and the skin easily separates from tongue.
- Remove the trotters, tongue and tripe to a cutting board and cut them into 2 to 3-inch chunks. Place into individual serving bowls.
- Skim most of the fat from the broth and ladle broth into serving bowls
In Armenia, the fat is not skimmed which results in a thick and very fatty soup. We opted to thin out the broth.
Sliced radishes, salt, chopped garlic, ground paprika, chopped parsley and lemon slices.
4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 ounce active yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sugar
2 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Preheat a pizza stone in a 500-550 degree oven
- Mix flour and salt together in a large bowl.
- In a separate medium size bowl, combine yeast, olive oil, sugar and water.
- Slowly stir yeast mixture into flour mixture. Dough should come together and be of a soft consistency. Add a tablespoon of water at a time if the dough is dry and crumbly. Conversely add flour a tablespoon at a time if the dough is very sticky.
- Dump dough onto a clean, dry surface and knead by hand for 10 -15 minutes or until you have a stiff dough with a smooth surface.
- Place dough in a large bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Place bowl in a warm, draft free area until it doubles in size. (About an hour at room temperature.)
- Remove dough from bowl and cut into 8 pieces. Knead pieces one at a time to form them into small balls. Place balls on a cookie sheet or tray and cover with a damp cloth. Let rise again to double in size (about 30 min).
- Working with one piece of dough at a time, dust each piece with flour and place on a lightly floured surface. Use a rolling pin to flatten dough into 12-inch sheets.
- Lightly brush tops with olive oil then sprinkle with sesame seeds. This is a little tricky, so be careful: Open the oven door and carefully put the lavash onto the heated pizza stone.
- Bake in preheated oven until lightly browned, about 3-5 minutes.
- Place on wire rack to dry and cool.
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Pour yourself some good vodka, toast the day
and experience tradition.