Friday, January 17, 2014

Recipe Review for Armenian Vegan: A Cookbook!

Many things excite me. I am hyper like that. Every now and then, separately exciting things can be combined to create a whole new playing field. The release of Armenian Vegan is one of those things:
There is an instant Hollywood-esque theme song in my head whenever I see this picture
I was contacted by Lisa Kirazian, who is the daughter of the author of the cookbook, Dikranouhi Kirazian, and was given some links about the book as Lisa said that based on my blog and Armenian Weekly articles, she thought I would be interested.

Interested I was. I read all I could read on the book, saw it featured on The Armenian Weekly and had many adorable friends all over the world send me the links via e-mail and facebook. They know me well. 

When I initially became vegan, as I've mentioned on this blog as well as in my articles, one of the main reasons I didn't worry as much as most people about food choices was that I realized early on that most of my favourite foods were already vegan-by-default. Tabouleh, hmoz, falafel, sarma, vospov kufteh/chorbah, and much more. Why would I worry? Coconut milk-based ice cream existed back then too!

Of course I was away in university when the vegan light bulb went off as a result of many documentaries, and I soon realized that although my favourite foods were already vegan, I spent too much time enjoying the fruits of my parent's and grandparent's labour without actually knowing how to make them. Canned vegan soups became a staple. Now as a nutritionist, when I look back at those infamous soups, the sodium levels alone make me shudder in disbelief. I genuinely can not even put a spoon of those soups in my mouth now without having to spit it out as a result of the salt-overload, but at that time, I had settled and my taste buds apparently adjusted.

While I am a much better cook now (and realize heating canned soups doesn't count as cooking), and tend to stick to my roots in terms of what I make/attempt to make (Hermine and Vahan, represent!), a cookbook like Armenian Vegan would have done wonders for me in those early vegan university years. Over 200 comforting foods that reminded one of home, while at the same time incorporating a new and (at the time) 'controversial' lifestyle. Talk about hitting two birds with one stone.

But rather than live in the world of the past, I am so looking forward to owning my own copy of Armenian Vegan. To have recipes I already know in there as a reference, to learn about new and exciting vegan-by-default Armenian foods, and of course to read about possible meat-substitution ideas for Armenian classics like mante, lahmajoun, etc., was as exciting as exciting can be. I have also been meaning to learn how to make more baked goods and desserts, and I believe this book will be key.

While I will hopefully receive my hard-copy soon (still debating whether to have it shipped to Armenia after a string of bad luck with receiving mail here or picking it up in Canada in May), Dikranouhi and Lisa were kind enough to send me a few of their favourite recipes, making sure to send me some with ingredients I could easily find in Armenia.

The top contenders were a hearty lentil-based soup, or a refreshing bulgur-based salad. Given that it is winter-time and many people have busted pipes as a result of the 2 week ice-fest, I opted for the former (Vartabed chorbah, or Priest's soup).

What you need:
1 cup red lentils
1/2 cup rice
3-4 garlic cloves
8-9 cups of water
2 large onions
2 bay leaves
1 & 1/2 tsp cumin
1/4th cup olive oil
salt, pepper and cayenne powder to taste

I checked out the recipe, and realized I had all of the ingredients besides the rice. I checked my grain section to see if I could substitute that with anything and realized that Allegra, who also took all the photos for this post (which is why they are pretty and not blurry), had left me some quinoa. Happy not to have to change out of my pajamas, I began.
The quinoa bag seems empty to the naked eye..
Since I already included a small substitution, I decided to follow all the other directions completely. I of course let my chopped garlic sit for 5 minutes before adding it to the pot and removed the sprouts. More information on why can be found here and here.
You can bet your boots those mega-sprouts were going to cause some kind of indigestion!
Everything in this recipe was easy to follow and the cooking times suggested were spot on. The directions are as follows:

Wash and drain the lentils and rice in a pot and add 8-9 cups of water. Chop one of the onions and the garlic cloves and add them to the pot. Add the bay leaves and all other spices and boil on high for 5-10 minutes. Lower heat and cook for 30 minutes. Chop and saute the second onion in the oil and add to the soup and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Serves 4-6 and goes well with a nice hearty bread.

Once it was finished Allegra and I dug in to what was a very tasty, simple, nutritious and hearty soup. The combination of the red lentils and the quinoa made the meal a complete protein (read about combining proteins here) and the cumin, bay leaves, and red pepper added just the right amount of spice and taste to this dish, and we of course will enjoy the anti-fungal benefits of the garlic and the fibre of both the lentils and quinoa!
For someone like me, who often overdoes it with spices (usually a matter of not being able to choose one to focus on), it was nice to make a dish that was not overpowered by 15 different tastes, and instead had just enough of a couple of key spices to allow you to enjoy but not be overwhelmed by each spoonful. I also appreciated that there was not an overload of either the salt or the oil, which is something I have found to be very common in Armenian cookbooks in general.

I would definitely recommend trying this recipe and just make sure not to consume any of the bay leaves as they can shred your intestines up real nice.
Bay leaves, you shall not pass!
Looking forward to trying more recipes from this cookbook and having a full-on Armenian Vegan inspired dinner party!

For details on how to get your own copy, check out:

All photos by Allegra Garabedian

1 comment:

  1. An instructive post. People to really know who they want to reach and why or else, they'll have no way to know what they're trying to achieve. People need to hear this and have it drilled in their brains..
    Thanks for sharing this great article.
    check for health tips...