- 200 g minced lean beef or lamb
- 75 g bulgur
- 50 g chopped red onion
- 25 g chopped red bell pepper
- 2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
- 2 tbsp chopped basil
- pepper, salt
- cayenne to taste
- 2 full tbsp double concentrated tomato purée
- 300 ml water
- 1 aubergine (300 g)
- 2 tbsp pine nuts
- basil and parsley leaves
Aubergine is a most popular vegetable in the Middle East and Caucasus. Arabs came across this plant which has its origins in India during their conquest of Persia in the ninth century. They transformed the Persian name batingaan into al-bādhinjān, which became aubergine f.i. in French, English, Danish, Swedish and Dutch and berenjena in Spanish. From there they spread the vegetable over their immense realm as far as Spain. But not immediately.
Charles Perry cites a statement from a Bedouin in the eleventh century in Medieval Arab Cookery (2001, p. 243) : ‘Even if Maryam the mother of Jesus split it, and Sarah the wife of Abraham cooked it, and Fatima the daughter of the Prophet served it, I would have no taste for it.’
That kind of remarks I have heard in my nearest environment. But they changed their mind because of dishes like this one, Missov Simpoogi Dolma. It stems from the rich Armenian cooking tradition. Dolma is Turkish for ‘filled’, but the taste is purely Armenian
- Knead the minced meat with bulgur, onion, bell pepper, parsley, basil, pepper, salt and cayenne.
- Dissolve the tomato purée in the water. Work 2 tbsp of that juice into the meat mix.
- Wash the aubergine, cut away the stem with the prickly calyx, halve lengthwise. Scoop out the pulp but take care to keep the side at least ½ cm thick. Fill the halves with the minced mix. Put into a frying pan, pour the tomato juice with some pepper and salt around it. Cover and simmer gently for half an hour.
- Roast the pine nuts light brown in a dry frying pan. Scatter them before serving over the aubergine halves. Basil and parsley leaves all around.
Wine: Shiraz (most Armenians are Christians and like a glass of wine).
- First course: Jajik. Halve a small peeled cucumber lengthwise, scoop away the seeds, cut thick halve moons. Mix with 150 ml Greek yoghurt, minced garlic, pepper, salt and 1 tbsp chopped mint. On the plate crumbled feta around it. Eat with pitta bread.
- Dessert: Dzirani Anoush. Apricots with walnuts. Leave 6 half walnuts to soak for half an hour in 2 tbsp cognac. Cook 6 presoaked dried apricots with 1 tbsp sugar just under water for 3 minutes. Spoon the fruit into two mini dishes. Reduce the cooking liquid to syrup. Let cool. Fill the apricots with nuts, dribble with the syrup mixed with the cognac. On top a dollop of sweet whipped cream sprinkled with some cinnamon.