The manner in which Armenian food and of its surrounding regions is prepared is at the crossroads between East and West and has some common elements with Middle Eastern cuisine.
Our social and cultural traditions have been passed down from generation to generation to the present day; with each hand-down recipe reflecting changes in territory, local ingredients and creativity of people. I have been told that my paternal grandmother used to make this dish quite a bit, so did my mom, and now me. Growing up I didn’t identify it other than by its descriptive name; now I know that it is called “
Meykhana Meykhaneh Pilav” by some (thanks Julie), and it is one of the few Armenian recipes that I managed to write in my notebook as I left home for college. I am so glad and lucky that I decided to do so at that time, because the opportunity never knocked on my door twice.
The recipe went something like this, in my own handwritten notes: a little bit of this and a little bit of that, sauté and mix and add a bunch of … and taste as you go along and add some more. Over time, and out of necessity to develop recipes for my blog, I started measuring and recording every ingredient, steps, alterations, additions and substitutions as I went along; adding even more scratches, arrows, inserts and so forth.
So without further delay and extra chatter, let’s get going and deconstruct this meal.
Sauté ground beef with bulgur wheat.
Stir-cook tomato and pepper pastes, spices, onions, tomatoes and Jalapeno peppers then cook all together with bulgur, ground beef and vegetable stock.
Cook in two steps: covered, for 30 minutes, then covered with a kitchen towel, for another 15-20 minutes.
Cook until desired consistency is reached; fluff with fork. Serve either creamy like risotto or semi-dry like pilaf.
ARMENIAN BULGUR WHEAT PILAF WITH MEAT AND VEGETABLES
16 oz ground beef
Safflower or sunflower oil, as needed
2 cups coarse or extra-coarse grain bulgur; #4 or #5
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon red pepper paste
1 teaspoon red Aleppo pepper; or 4:1 ratio sweet paprika and cayenne pepper
1/3 teaspoon 7-spice mix; store-bought, or recipe included below
¾-to-1 teaspoon salt
Scant ¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 medium onion (1 ¼ cups), diced
3 tomatoes (1 ½ cups), diced
3 Jalapeno peppers, diced
4 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground white pepper
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
Sauté ground beef on medium heat until liquid is almost gone. Add some oil and sauté a little longer until lightly browned all over. Add bulgur, stir-cook 2-5 minutes and then transfer into a bowl.
In the same pot, add some oil, tomato and pepper pastes and stir-cook for about 3 minutes. Add red pepper, 7-spice blend, salt, black pepper, bay leaf and onion; cook until onions are translucent. Add tomatoes; cook a little more. Add Jalapeno peppers and cook a little longer.
Add vegetable stock and bring to a gentle boil. Remove bay leaf. Return bulgur and beef mixture to the pot and bring to a boil once more. Keep on a gentle boil for 2 minutes then cover and cook on medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Change heat setting to the lowest, place a kitchen towel under the cover and cook for another 15-to-20 minutes to desired consistency. Fluff with fork and serve; pairs well with yoghurt.