Armenian Main Dish

Dear John Recipes: Armenian Main Dish

Dear John,

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!

Armenian Main Dish


12 Comments Add yours

  1. This sounds simple and very hearty… love it!

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      And really tasty, too! 😀

  2. ceciliag says:

    Ah yes i know this dish, very yum, now stop asking silly questions and go set the table!! (laughter!)… c

    1. MiskMask says:

      Do you know it? Do you know it? Same name too? Wow! Okay, okay, silly questions…..

  3. I love that it’s called Armenian Main Dish 🙂
    I do an Armenian Nutmeg Cake… that could be for dessert.

    1. MiskMask says:

      We could have one of those potluck dinners! We need someone to being a salad or starters. 🙂

  4. hotlyspiced says:

    That does look like excellent comfort food – a meal everyone would enjoy.

    1. MiskMask says:

      During the summer, I always used fresh beans. Makes a big difference in taste.

  5. C says:

    Your bit about asking why it was called Armenian reminded me of a dish we used to have as children that we knew as Poly Pork (Polynesian). I’m sure there was no connection whatsoever, as it had come to my mum from her mother who in turn got it from a neighbour. I don’t think foreign cuisine was a staple in S. Yorks at the time 😉 Your dish looks tasty – I quite like ‘throw it all in’ type dishes, it suits me when cooking for one!

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      We had something similar called Hawaiian Ham. It was knee-deep in pineapple chunks. Poly Pork, Hawaiian Ham: culinary alliterations reign!

  6. We didn’t use the cheese or rice but when I was little we used something like these seasonings and the tinned tomato to casserole ox liver which all of us loathed but had to eat and this was pretty much the only way we could bear it (lamb’s liver would have been a different matter, we all liked that with just onion gravy).

    Rice would have worked very well with it but we tended to keep that for curry, a version of risotto, chicken soup or rice pudding.

    The side dish that we liked with it was to par-boil whole potato, remove the skin, slice it thickly and layer it with onions in a casserole dish and then pour heated blitzed down tin of tomatoes with seasoning and wine vinegar over it before placing a lid on top. It, too, would bake away in the oven until the potato was cooked through.

    Yours looks like comfort food rather than camouflage for something 🙂

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      My mother did everything possible to avoid curry, so as a child we didn’t see rice on the table often. It appeared with creamed tuna, and hidden away in this dish. She still won’t touch curry. Her version of Armenian Main Dish was very bland and a bit watery as she didn’t allow the liquids to absorbs into the rice.

      As for liver, it’s one of few things that I can’t stomach. I love pâté but fried liver makes me run for the hills. 🙂

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