Armenian Lentil Stew is a thick, rich medley of eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, onions, golden raisins, and lentils, all flavored with a savory-sweet blend of traditional herbs and spices. Naturally vegan and gluten-free, it is wonderful alone, or served over a bowl of rice or bulgar.
The Story Behind this Recipe
Some years ago, my daughter married a young Armenian named Vahe. When I first met Vahe, I could barely locate Armenia on a map; moreover, I knew virtually nothing about its rich culture and even less about the tumultuous history of its proud and faithful people. All I knew was this earnest, poetic young man loved my daughter, which is all I really needed to know back then.
And I knew he could cook, because whenever he visited us, that is what he did – COOK! Using nearly every pan in my kitchen, he would make us a bountiful feast of Armenian-inspired fare.
He made us everything from delicious garlicky green beans with eggs to delectable eggplant rolls stuffed with carrots and raisins to amazing fire-roasted shish kabobs. (Like many Armenians, Vahe is a master of fire and skewer.)
Over the years, I’ve developed a great appreciation and genuine respect for my son-in-law and the hard-fought struggle he has endured to become an American citizen. I’ve gained a heartful of amazing Armenian-American grandchildren and a wonderful extended family. I’ve read books and articles on Armenian history (of which I was taught virtually nothing about in school), and I've learned a some about traditional Armenian cooking as well.
The Rich History of Armenian Cooking
With a recorded history of about 3500 years, the small, landlocked country of Armenia has a cuisine as old as the nation itself, where it occupies a unique place in Asiatic cuisine. Relying on a rich medley of diverse tastes and fragrances, Armenian cooking often employs savory flavors like lemon, garlic, onion, paprika, and sumac, and warm spices like cinnamon, vanilla, and cloves.
When I saw Armenian Lentil Stew on a restaurant menu awhile back, I knew that I had to give it a go. In the end, I don’t know how traditional this recipe is; in fact, my culinary instincts are telling me that, even with my exhaustive research, it may be a bit Americanize. All I know is, it’s delicious.
When it comes to ethnic recipes, I'm usually a stickler for authenticity, but under the circumstances, I think this recipe is a perfect metaphor. My son-in-law - who coaches his daughters' soccer team and reads Kant (in Russian) to his three-year old son, who would move heaven and earth for my daughter, and who stood in 2016 in a Utah courthouse and pledged his allegiance to the United States of America... well, he's a little Americanize now, too.
More Armenian Inspired Recipes
Armenian Lentil Stew
- 1 cup dried red or brown lentils or combination
- 6 cups chicken stock or canned broth
- ½ cup golden raisins or chopped dried apricots
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 1 pound eggplant peeled and diced ¼-3/8"
- 28 ounces canned diced tomatoes undrained
- 1 whole bell pepper red, green or yellow, diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons hot paprika or regular paprika
- 1-2 teaspoons kosher salt or to taste
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 heaping teaspoon crushed dried mint leaves
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
- fresh mint or cilantro chopped
- sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
- Rinse lentils and place in large sauce pan. Add broth and golden raisins (or chopped dried apricots) and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or other heavy pan over medium heat until it begins to glisten, and then add chopped onions. Saute onions 5-7 minutes, until translucent.
- Add eggplant, tomatoes, bell pepper, and garlic to onions. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add lentil mixture and remaining Stew ingredients to vegetable mixture. Simmer until lentils are tender; about 30 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste. If stew becomes too thick while cooking, add additional broth or water.
- Garnish with fresh mint or cilantro and a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt. Serve as is, or over cooked bulgar or basmati rice.
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