Thursday, April 3, 2014

Ոսպով Քիւֆթէ (Vospov Kufteh) or Lentil Burgers

I mentioned in my first Armenian Weekly article that vospov kufteh was one of my favourite "vegan-by-default" Armenian foods. Yet, I have only featured vospov chorbah on this blog. It's time to put an end to that madness.

Vospov kufteh is not only delicious, it is a complete protein with iron, vitamin C and B6, and besides the lentils, it is a raw dish as well, so it is ideal for the warmer weather. It is also very simple to make, it just involves a waiting period for the lentils to cool down.

My good Argentinian friend Alin is back in Armenia and after postponing a dinner date too many times to count, we settled on yesterday and set it in stone by being dramatic. I finally had an excuse to make one of my favourite dishes, and had all the ingredients already.

What you need:
-Red lentils
-Bulghur (there tends to be 3 different sizes for the grain, always opt for the smallest one)
-Parsley
-Spring onion
-Cumin
-Red pepper or paprika
-Salt

I forgot to take photos of the entire preparation process because I forget how to blog sometimes, so I will write the directions down and include a photo of the final product:

Directions:

-RINSE THE LENTILS. Rinse until the water is clear - if you missed my initial scary warnings, check out this post immediately before you think about skipping this step. Rinse well, add enough water to just cover the lentils, and keep a kettle with hot water near-by in case you need to add a little more. Remove the foam bubbles too of course!

-The lentils should become quite mushy and there should be no water left. It can be a little tricky in terms of making sure there is enough water to cook but not over-doing it and being left with too much. You can always drain the water out but this will of course remove some of the flavour. Once they are cooked and mushy, just set them aside - they need to cool down significantly (this is the "waiting period" my attention span is too short for).

-Rinse a few cups of bulghur (doesn't need to be as hardcore as with the lentils) and put just enough water so that they are covered - but the idea again is for the bulghur to absorb all the water, so make sure not to put too much. Draining the water here could eliminate some B-vitamins since they are water-soluble and I also found it quite hard to do since the bulghur is so tiny. Set the bulghur aside - it should be done in about 30-45 mins (until the grains are softened).

-Once the lentils have cooled off so they are lukewarm, we can begin the mixing. The reason we don't add the bulghur to the hot lentils is because the bulghur would then cook. We keep it raw by soaking it and while it provides substance and protein, it should not be the main flavour of the dish, and having them cooked would dramatically change this peaceful understanding and co-existence with the lentils. Add the bulghur gradually, while mixing, until the ratio is about 3:1 in favour of bulghur (again, since it is not cooked, the flavour will not overpower the mighty lentil even in higher amounts).

-Add the finely chopped spring onion and parsley (doesn't have to be as fine as in tabouleh) - but make sure to have drained the water out after washing them. Proceed with the mixing.

-Add generous amounts of cumin powder (in terms of spices, the cumin flavour should reign supreme) and add the red pepper for colour as well as spice. Add the salt to your liking. Mix it all up and taste it - if it needs more cumin/red pepper/salt, add it before you begin the kufteh-making.

-Grab about a spoonful of the mix, squeeze it in your hands to create an oval-esque shape, and place it on a new plate. Do this until the mixture is finished. Make sure to have a good playlist ready before you begin or you will get kufteh particles all over your computer trying to click "replay" for Bob Dylan songs (true story).

-Optional: make it pretty by decorating with a few more sprinkles of red pepper and some springs of parsley. This is for my more elegant blog-readers.

That's it! As you can see, the "hardest" part of this recipe is simply waiting for the lentils to cool down and the bulgur to soak up all the water, so as long as you have some other tasks to do within this time period, it really is an easy and quick recipe. The final product is worth it, and you can make a lot and keep it in the fridge for some surprise snacks for the following days. This is way my mother makes the dish, and my father said in Jerusalem they would flatten the kuftehs like patties and cook them on a pan with some flour and oil until crispy. I have yet to try this, but summer BBQs - watch out!
Mother's style - I didn't have any parsley leftover for garnishing
So there you have it, one of the best Armenian dishes ever and it is suitable for vegans. For those who are gluten-free, although I have not tried it, you could always substitute the bulghur for some quinoa (but I imagine you would need to cook it VS sprouting it for 3 days).

Since it was a complete protein, I decided to pair it with some greens and made a simple salad with romaine lettuce, cucumbers, grated carrot and toasted sunflower seeds. The dressing was a mix of tahini, apple cider vinegar and a dried dill/parsley mix I bought in Artsakh. Here is the pair in all of its "Lena-can't-use-cameras-very-well" glory:


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