Let’s Eat — A Writer’s Guide to Cooking

Years ago, my grandparents used to make a wonderful raw beef dish called kheyma. The meat was finely ground, spicy, and served cold topped with chopped onions and parsley. Kheyma was also available on occasion in some Armenian restaurants, and in fact might still be somewhere, though I have long since become leery of eating uncooked meat from animals that were commercially raised and slaughtered.

It has probably been twenty-five years since I have had kheyma. But the good news is, there is a meatless recipe that tastes very much the same, the primary ingredient of which is lentils. The lentil version of kheyma is healthy and easy to make, and is an excellent appetizer on festive occasions where everyone ends up eating all day. It can be eaten plain, or with crackers, or, better yet, with moistened Armenian cracker bread (patz hatz), or rolled up inside pieces of lavash, which is the soft form of cracker bread typically used in Armenia. It is also good with beer.

When I make lentil kheyma, I use one cup of lentils. This will fill a nice large plate or small platter, and be enough for eight or ten people. So it will be completely cold when it’s served, it’s best to make it several hours ahead, or even the day before. More time in the refrigerator improves the flavor.

After washing the lentils, put them in a pan and cover them with about two and a half cups of hot water and start them cooking. Then, in a small frying pan, melt about half a cube of butter. Next, slice a small yellow onion into the butter. Make the slices thin. While the onion is softening on low heat, add salt, pepper, and cayenne. I do all the seasoning in this pan. Use plenty, except you might want to take it easy on the cayenne, depending on your taste buds. But definitely use some. Next, chop a couple of tablespoons of parsley. When the lentils are half cooked (about twenty minutes on low-medium heat), add the butter, the softened (but not browned) onions, and the parsley. Stir well. By now, a lot of the water will have boiled away.

Next, while the mixture is cooking, get slightly less than half a cup of fine bulghur (cracked wheat) ready, and have that on hand. After the lentils have simmered a few minutes, you can taste them and add seasoning if necessary. When they are done, they should be soft and almost all of the water should be gone. Now add the bulghur, and stir it so it’s evenly distributed throughout the mixture. Then put a lid on the pan and let it simmer for about two minutes. The bulghur will cook in that time, and will absorb the remaining liquid. Remove from the heat and take off the pan lid. Let the mixture cool for a couple of hours (exact time is unimportant).

After the mixture has cooled (a little warmth remaining won’t hurt), spoon it out onto your serving plate or platter. Spread it evenly and press it together with the back of the spoon. Be firm. Don’t leave any dips or gaps. In effect, you should end up with a large, smooth patty. (You can also make individual patties, but I never do this. It’s too irritating and time-consuming.) Sprinkle on just a tiny bit of black pepper. Then chop about half a large red onion and spread it evenly over the entire surface of the kheyma. Finally, chop enough parsley to do the same, then spread the parsley on top of the onion. Cover and refrigerate. Starting with a layer of waxed paper works best, because the parsley will stick to clear plastic wrap. Use plastic wrap to finish the job and seal off the edges. If you will be eating the kheyma in just a few hours, you can even cover it with a large pan lid, assuming you use a round dinner-sized plate.

To serve, use a spoon to cut away the desired amount. The kheyma stays together and is easy to transfer to smaller plates. Be sure to include some of the onions and parsley with each serving. If any of the kheyma is left over, be glad, because it will be even better the next day.

Also by William Michaelian

Winter Poems

ISBN: 978-0-9796599-0-4
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
ISBN: 978-0-9796599-1-1
80 pages. Paper.
Cosmopsis Books
San Francisco

Signed copies available

Main Page
Author’s Note
A Listening Thing
Among the Living
No Time to Cut My Hair
One Hand Clapping
Songs and Letters
Collected Poems
Early Short Stories
Armenian Translations
Cosmopsis Print Editions
News and Reviews
Highly Recommended
Favorite Books & Authors
Useless Information
Flippantly Answered Questions
E-mail & Parting Thoughts

Top of Page
Current Entry
Old Eats