Dear John Recipes: Armenian Main Dish
Your grandmother made this meal-in-a-pot often when I was a child. I gobbled it down in much the same way that you and your brother inhaled it between gulps of milk when you were kids. It’s comfort food, it’s kids’ food, it’s clear out the fridge food, it tastes better the 2nd day so don’t be afraid to make more than you can eat at once, and it’s surprisingly good for you. It’s also cheap and versatile – don’t be afraid to throw this, that and/or anything without mould and doesn’t squeak into the pot after the rice has finished cooking. Any fridge leftover should be added at the very end so they don’t over-cook and turn to mushy-muck.
There is, by the way, nothing whatsoever Armenian about this recipe. As I child I asked Grandma, “What does Armenian mean?” She thought it was a foreign word … or maybe a city in Canada. And then she said, “Don’t ask me stupid questions. Go set the table; dinner’s ready.”
Armenian Main Dish
500g good quality minced beef
1 onion, finely diced
3 garlic gloves, thinly sliced
1 beef stock cube, crumbled
1 tin chopped tomatoes (approx. 14oz/400g tin)
1 tin cut green beans (approx. 14oz/400g) – If fresh beans are in season buy those. Cut beans into pieces and then fill about half way up the emptied tomato tin as a method of measure.
1 tablespoon Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon, or 1 teaspoon Colman’s dry mustard powder
1 teaspoon cumin or 1 teaspoon medium curry powder
1/2 or 1 cup uncooked Basmati or Long Grain rice (your choice)
1 teaspoon dried red chilli flakes
1 teaspoon dried parsley or 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
(if needed) 1/2 cup boiling water to create enough liquid for the rice to cook. The liquid should just come above the level of the ingredients. Not too much.
Brown the minced beef over medium heat, and crumble it into small pieces by pressing a spatula against the minced beef while it cooks. Drain off the fat but not down the drain. Add the diced onion, stir and cook until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic, stir and cook for a minute or two. Don’t allow the garlic to brown, as that makes it bitter. Add the tomatoes, Lea & Perrins, mustard, cumin or curry powder, and red chilli flakes. Stir well. Bash the stock cube with your fist and then crumble into the mixture. Stir. Pour in the liquid from the canned beans, but DO NOT add the beans yet (just the liquid!). Stir. Add the rice and stir again. The rice needs enough liquid to cook – the liquid level should be slightly above the mince mixture. If you can’t see any liquid, add some now and stir it in thoroughly. Clap on the lid so the water is absorbed into the rice rather than evaporating from the pan. The rice takes about 20-minutes on low heat to cook. You can stir it once every 10-minutes to ensure that it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan. When the rice is cooked and tender, taste and adjust seasoning (add salt or pepper if needed). It often needs a bit more salt. Now add the cut beans, stir in gently, and warm through completely.
You can also add a tin of crispy sweet corn, a big handful of grated cheese either stirred into the mixture or sprinkled on top and allowed to melt, a fried egg on top, a tin of red kidney beans in chilli sauce, stir in leftover mac and cheese, add chopped celery, add several fresh, chopped tomatoes for extra colour, a dessertspoonful of crème fraiche, add pitted black olives, sliced mushrooms, a squirt of anchovy paste, Dad always adds A1 Steak Sauce, Grandpa always added ketchup, I add grated cheddar. The variations and additions are endless, but these are just a few of the ones I’ve tried and liked.
Bon appetit! Værsgo!