Meat, particularly lamb, plays a pretty big part of Armenian cuisine. Roast lamb, kebabs, as the topping on lehmajun, and in it's most primitive form, as kheyma.
Kheyma consists mainly of raw, ground lamb and softened bulghur wheat, with plenty of parsley and onion in there for flavoring. My brothers still talk about watching the old men at our church in the 1970's, hairy elbows-deep in the kheyma as they mixed it for a picnic or bazaar. It's a very traditional dish, but it can be hard to come by in today's world, where raw meat is not usually the first choice for dinner. Personally, it's not my first choice either.
Surprisingly, there is a meat-free alternative that tastes pretty similar to the real thing (even better, I think). It's a really simple recipe, and the hardest part is just making sure all the ingredients are chopped up fine enough. Just make sure that all of your friends or family eat it at the same time - there is a LOT of onion in there.
- 1 cup fine bulghur wheat
- 3 cups Hunt's tomato sauce (my mother assures me that it MUST be Hunt's, but any sauce that's pretty much just tomato puree should do)
- 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
- 1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
- 1 bunch parsley, minced
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil (olive oil is too strong a flavor)
- dash of cayenne pepper
Mix bulghur with tomato sauce and let it soak. Add chopped vegetables, lemon juice, oil, and cayenne, and mix well. Cover and refrigerate overnight for flavors to blend. Serve with crackers or parag hatz.