Thursday, August 16, 2012

Merjumek Kufte - Vosbov Kheyma - in the style of the Armenians from Marash

Yesterday's New York Times featured an article entitled, "Building the Turkish Empire, One Friend at a Time" (Wednesday, August 15, 2012, D3). The title was a bit unsettling, as the Armenians certainly know what happened when the Turks tried to 'build' their Empire in 1895, then again in 1908, and finally in 1915. If you don't know the history, read the issues of the New York Times from 1895, 1908, and 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918. But not to get lost in the dark pages of history, or in the freshly printed pages of yesterday's New York Times, Marash Girl would like to correct the recipe that the New York Times reporter offered for Merjumek Kufte,(Vosbov Kheyma in Armenian), a meal that her Armenian ancestors, she, her children and grandchildren have been preparing from time immemorial. Originally meant as a lenten dish (interestingly enough, prepared with red lentils -- is that where lentils got their name or did lent get its name from lentils?), it has long since become a weekly favorite in the homes of most Marashtsis, and certainly a favorite with Marash Girl's family. Here's how you make it.

One cup of red lentils (Mendzmama often used yellow split peas if she was out of red lentils)
One cup of medium (or fine) bulghur (NOT coarse)
Aintab red pepper (sometimes known as Halep red pepper or Aleppo red pepper, available in Middle Eastern stores, or if you live in Watertown, MA, in the Armenian stores on Mt. Auburn Street)

One large onion, peeled, chopped into tiny pieces, and sauteed in olive oil or part olive oil and part butter.

For the garnish (Pervaz)

1 bunch of fresh parsley, washed well, trimmed, and chopped finely (include the stems -- that's where all the flavor is!)
1 bunch fresh scallions, washed, trimmed, chopped finely (include both the bulb and the greens)
1 fresh green pepper, washed, deseeded, and chopped finely.

Rinse the red lentils, place them in a heavy pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, and simmer for 1 hour or less (until the water is mostly absorbed.) The lentils should be mushy, with some amount of water left. This is NOT an exact science, as the absorption of the water by the lentils depends on how old and dry the lentils are.

While the lentils are cooking, prepare the parsley garnish and set aside. Chop the onion and saute in the olive oil/butter mix. (The oil should slightly cover the onions when you begin to saute, as this is important for the flavor of the final dish.)

After about an hour, add to the lentils, which should now be mushy and yellowish in color, about a cup of bulgur. Leave the mixture for a bit, covered, until the water is absorbed by the bulgur and the mixture is stiff. If need be, add a bit more bulgur to stiffen the mixture; add the sauteed onions with whatever oil is left in the pan; this will loosen the kheyma a bit, the salt, pepper and Aintab red pepper. Add half of the 'pervaz', (the garnish,) leaving some for the center of your platter for folks to dunk their kheyma khounches into, should they prefer. [The kheyma should be stiff enough to shape into "khounch", two inch long football shaped pieces which have the marks of your fingers on the side. Repeat: these small shapes should not be smooth, but rather have the dents of your fingers on the sides.] Arrange the kheyma around the edges of a platter with the garnish in the center. Serve warm. Or, if you don't have the time to shape the kheyma into khounches, simply put it on a plate as you would a plate of rice with the garnish on the side. Serve warm for a meal, or room temperature for meza!


  1. Mejmek made the news just about a year ago.
    page 5

    1. Here's the article:
      Lorig Charkoudian Runs for Local Office In Maryland
      TAKOMA PARK, Md. — Lorig Charkoudian, a Massachusetts native, announced her candidacy for City Council here. She has a progressive agenda, including environmental initiatives and economic development policies that support small and micro-enterprises. She underscores the importance of har- nessing the potential of participatory democracy and making the city more accountable to its residents.
      Charkoudian holds a PhD in economics from Johns Hopkins University. She has developed and worked with community-based programs throughout Maryland and has worked professionally in dispute resolution for 16 years, including work with a variety of public agencies and law enforcement. She has raised revenue and managed budgets as a non-profit executive director and increased revenue and programming during the economic downturn. She is currently active with the Takoma Junction Task Force and the South of Sligo Citizens Association.
      Charkoudian has been working with several local non-profits to start a com- mercial kitchen to be used for micro-enterprise development.
      Local food is one of the many policy initiatives Charkoudian is promoting. “Supporting the development of a local food system can address several impor- tant areas — economic development, job creation, environmental stewardship and health. And food gives us a chance to celebrate different cultures and build community,” said Charkoudian.
      She credits her appreciation for the power of food as an economic engine and community builder to her Armenian upbringing. “I grew up eating churtmah, MERJUMEK, dolma, tabouli and babaganoush that my grandmoth- ers and mother made from food grown in their gardens. It fed the community and our souls and it was good for our bodies and the environment.”
      Charkoudian was raised in a political family, with both father and mother involved in local politics. Her mother, Bethel Bilezikian Charkoudian, was active in the Civil Rights Movement in the early 1960s, and currently serves on the Newton Parks and Recreation Commission. Her father, Levon Charkoudian, was commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Community Affairs under Gov. Francis W. Sargent.
      Charkoudian’s family has always had a strong presence and active involve- ment in the Armenian community. Three of her Marashtsi grandparents were survivors of the Armenian Genocide. Her aunt, Arppie Charkoudian, was the international president of the Armenian Relief Society. Charkoudian herself attended the AGBU Armenian Elementary School in Watertown, Mass.
      Charkoudian lives in Takoma Park with her husband, Matt, and their chil- dren, Aline and Raffi.
      For more information on her campaign, visit

  2. Materials:

    1 cup red lentils
    1 liter of water
    2 cups fine bulgur
    2 onions
    1 cup olive oil
    1.5 tablespoons chili sauce
    1 teaspoon black pepper
    the desired amount of red pepper flakes
    1 cup hot water
    1.5 tablespoons of tomato paste
    1 bunch of parsley
    6-7 stalks of green onions
    1.5 teaspoon salt
    lettuce or arugula


    1 Wash 1 cup red lentils 1 liter of water put into the fire. Leave the lid of the pot range. (or carry) crushed lentils and boil until the light watery. (pulls all the water would dry meatballs)

    2 2 cups fine bulgur in a bowl and deep and shallow. (like this) on the aqueous Stir in lentils. via container with aluminum foil off the bottle until lentils (30-45 minutes) to wait.

    3 meanwhile taken to the pan and chop 2 onions edible. Kill a cup of tea with olive oil and onions. 1.5 tablespoons tomato paste bier and add 1.5 tablespoons of tomato paste. 1 teaspoon black pepper and also add pulbiber as long as you mix. the last 1 cup of hot water into the pan boil Stir 1-2.

    4 Add to this mixture a mixture of bulgur and lentils. Mix all ingredients in bowl close them again.

    5 Wash and chop 5-6 green onion stalks. In the same way, a bunch of parsley, wash coast. Put them aside.

    6 deep in the container to mix and add 1.5 teaspoon salt and knead for 10 minutes. Knead waiting at the edge of the ground meat add the greens. Knead for 2-3 minutes. (ground meat if you come watery, add a little more water will pull fine bulgur) mortar few large pieces cut from coconut palm of your hand to shape. (ellipse or raw meat can shape)

    1. I notice you don't mention Marash red pepper because you probably use your own locally grown and dried Marash red pepper! (Now available in Watertown, MA, believe it or not!)

    2. Maras pepper is grown in other cities in Turkey, but does not enjoy.