Hye Thyme Cafe: April 2017

Welcome to the Hy
e Thyme Cafe. Although not all of my recipes are Armenian, the name is a little nod to my Armenian grandmother who is no longer with us. The Hye refers to all things related to her homeland, and she represents all things food-related to me, so the two just seemed to go together. I can't even claim that my Armenian recipes are truly Armenian, since Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, and even Egypt share so many foods that they've all sort of morphed into one over thousands of years.

Whether you like to cook, bake, have never done either, or just like to play with your food...come on in and join me! :)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Imrig Paklava (Sweet Semolina Cake with Pecans)

Imrig Paklava : Hye Thyme Cafe

I used to love Cream of Wheat (farina) for breakfast growing up, but of course, that included sprinkling lots of sugar over the top. Having outgrown the sugary breakfast phase, I tend not to reach for the farina unless I'm baking a tray of Spanakopita, since there is a little in the filling. That said, the rest usually sits in the pantry and ends up going to waste. I have made a few bread recipes with farina over the years, but I wanted to try something different and settled on this version of a semolina cake - inspired by Paklava. This recipe is an adaptation of that found in the Treasured Armenian Recipes cookbook.

Although this is referred to as a cake, don't be expecting that texture. Because this is made from farina, it has a denser texture. I want to say more brownie like, but that's not it either - closer in density but wrong texture. Polenta maybe?

6 oz bag pecan (or walnut) halves (roughly 2c)
6 eggs
1 1/2 c sugar
1 c (2 sticks) melted butter
14 oz (1 3/4 c) farina
1 1/2 t cinnamon

1 1/2 c sugar
1 1/2 c water
2 t lemon juice

Pistachios (optional) - just take a few, finely chopped
  1. In a dry pan, lightly toast the pecans, stirring occasionally, until fragrant. Remove from heat, let cool, then chop; set aside.
  2. Beat together the eggs and sugar until very light and fluffy.
  3. Melt the butter (microwave is fine), and let cool a little so you don't end up with bits of scrambled egg, then slowly stream into the egg mixture.
  4. Stir in the farina, cinnamon, and chopped nuts.
  5. Transfer to sprayed 11x7" pan and bake at 350 for 35-40" until set - (time will vary with pan size) top will be brown, and edges will start to pull away from the sides.
  6. Place pan on rack to cool, then cut into diamonds.
  7. Stirring to dissolve the sugar, bring the 1 1/2 c sugar and 1 1/2 c water up to a boil. Add the lemon juice and simmer for about 5", then pour evenly over the top of the cooled cake. Start with about half the syrup, wait a bit to see how much it will soak up, then add more as desired.
  8. Decorate each diamond with a bit of pistachio "dust." Works best with in shell pistachios, since pre-shelled nuts are roasted to a darker color and difficult to remove the skins from - when you use them straight out of the shell, they are that nice bright green, and the dry skins will usually rub right off.

Imrig Paklava : Hye Thyme Cafe

Imrig Paklava : Hye Thyme Cafe

Imrig Paklava : Hye Thyme Cafe

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Rice Kufte (Meat-Filled Rice Balls)

Rice Kufte / Kofta : Hye Thyme Cafe

These can be frustrating to get started. Because the rice is sticky, you need a little bowl of water to dip your fingers in. Too much water and the rice won't stick together - too little, and it won't let go of your hand. Don't give up! You'll get the hang of it after the first few. No wonder they use bamboo mats to roll sushi! 😉

1/2 lb ground beef or lamb
1 stick butter
1 small onion, finely diced (or lg shallot)
Salt & Pepper
1 t cumin
1/4 t cayenne pepper
3/4 c fresh chopped parsley
1 1/2 c water
1 c medium-grain rice
2 eggs

  1. Seasoning with 1/2 t each Salt and Pepper, the cumin, and the cayenne, saute the ground meat and diced onion in 1T of the butter until the meat has just a bit of pink left to it, then add the parsley and continue until the meat is cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside.  (Especially given the leaner packages of ground meat nowadays, the butter will give it a little extra help with flavor, texture, and help hold things together as it cools to make it easier for stuffing.)
  2. Bring the water to a boil, season with salt, stir in the rice, then cover and reduce heat to low, stirring once or twice along the way to prevent sticking to the pan, until the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  3. When the rice and the beef mixture are cool enough to handle, pinch off about a walnut-sized ball of rice, and press it into the palm of your hand, forming a well - fill the well with some of the meat mixture, then pinch the rice around it to close the ball.
  4. Once all of your kuftes are formed, beat the two eggs with a little salt and pepper, then roll the kuftes in the egg to coat.
  5. Over medium heat, pan fry in the butter (starting with about half the remaining butter and adding more as needed) until golden.
Rice Kufte / Kofta : Hye Thyme Cafe

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt Dipper

Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt Dipping Sauce : Hye Thyme Cafe

These meatballs are super tender, and although I could only find Australian ground lamb, the yogurt cut that typical gamey taste. Serve up a few with mini pita rounds or wedges and cucumber slices to get some extra mileage out of your yogurt dipper. Or serve with Pilaf and a salad.  

Plain yogurt (1c +)
2 cloves garlic
1 egg
1/2 small onion
1 handful parsley
1 pkg mint leaves
1/2 t each Salt & Pepper
1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 c fresh bread crumbs *
1 lb ground lamb
Olive Oil

* I always throw any odd pieces of bread in a container in the freezer to grind when I accumulate a good amount - doesn't matter if it's end slices, a hamburger roll, etc. Comes in very handy for meatballs, meatloaf, croquettes, toasting for a crispy garnish ...
  1. Start by making your yogurt sauce to give the garlic and mint a chance to impart their flavor. Mix 1c yogurt with 1/2 to 1 clove garlic (minced), depending on your preference, and about half the mint leaves (finely chopped). Cover and store in the fridge until needed.
  2. Let the lamb sit out for a while so it's not extremely cold - you don't want it to toughen up when it hits a hot pan.
  3. Preheat oven to 350. If you do not have an oven-proof skillet, line a baking sheet with foil and place it in the oven while pre-heating so you can transfer your browned meatballs to it without cooling them down.
  4. In a blender or food processor, puree the remaining clove of garlic with the onion, egg, parsley, remaining mint leaves, 3T yogurt, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.
  5. Mix the lamb, bread crumbs, and puree until well combined, then roll into 1" balls. The mixture will be soft and somewhat sticky.
  6. Coat the bottom of an oven-proof skillet with olive oil over moderate heat, then - using a spoon to keep them rolling, brown the meatballs all the way around.
  7. Transfer the pan to the oven to finish cooking through. I had mine in for about 20", but I realize people are leaning toward lamb that is more and more rare over time, so that's up to your preference. Just cut one open to check.
Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt Dipping Sauce : Hye Thyme Cafe
Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt Dipping Sauce : Hye Thyme Cafe

Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt Dipping Sauce : Hye Thyme Cafe
You can see how juicy they are.  :)

Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt Dipping Sauce : Hye Thyme Cafe

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Blor (Armenian Grain Soup)

Blor (Armenian Grain Soup) : Hye Thyme Cafe

I was browsing through my Treasured Armenian Recipes cookbook for inspiration, and this recipe caught my eye, but it really didn't make sense to me as written. I tried Googling it but only found a few hits, each of which was the exact same recipe. There was one other hit that was not a recipe but referenced the soup, noting that they had included lemon juice in theirs, which is always a good idea - a little acid to wake things up - and they commented that some of the blors (balls) had broken apart.

The first thing that threw me was that one of the ingredients was oatmeal - not oats, but oatmeal, which would mean it was already cooked, making me think that maybe this recipe had originated from leftovers. It also includes bulgur, which made me wonder if that should be pre-cooked as well. Additionally, the only seasoning was a bit of salt, and the ratios seemed off - too little onion and tomato to the amount of broth and spinach. The recipe also called for boiling the broth, adding the blors to the broth, then frying the onions separately and adding those, the tomatoes, and spinach to the broth later.

I changed things up by cooking the oatmeal and bulgur together, along with pepper and cumin in addition to the salt. I also sauteed the onions with garlic, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes, then added the spinach and tomatoes (I used a mini-blend), with the blors jumping into the pool last. I really enjoyed this soup, but without the additional seasonings, it would have been rather bland. I also chose to use baby spinach, so I did not feel the need to chop it as referenced in the directions - the baby spinach wilted down nicely.

I was happy at first that the blors came out unscathed but noticed later when I went to refrigerate the rest that some of them had disintegrated. I'm wondering if that's a result of not kneading the oat mixture well enough. Not a big deal - it's still a tasty dish, and with the blors having fallen apart, it was like other soups that contain rice, barley, or some other grain.

2 c water
3/4 c old fashioned oats
1/2 c fine bulgur
1 t salt (divided)
1 t black pepper (divided)
1/2 t cumin
2-3 T butter
1 onion, diced
1 lg or 2 small cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes
10 oz carton fresh baby spinach
12 oz medley mixed mini tomatoes, diced
2 32-oz cartons beef broth
1 lemon

  1. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to medium and stir in the oats, bulgur, 1/2 t salt, 1/2 t pepper, and the 1/2 t cumin, cooking for about 5", stirring frequently. Remove from heat and set aside. That will give it a chance to cool and allow the bulgur to soak up more of the moisture.
  2. Over medium heat, saute the garlic, onion, remaining 1/2 t each salt and pepper, and the 1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes in the butter until the onions are translucent.
  3. Wash your spinach, removing any particularly large stems or chopping any large leaves, then add to the pot, a handful or two at a time, stirring until wilted down.
  4. Add the tomatoes and broth and allow to come up to a boil.
  5. While that's going on, knead or mash the oat mixture well - I used the back of a large spoon to mash it.
  6. Reduce the soup to a simmer, then roll the oat mixture into roughly cherry-sized balls, dropping them into the soup as you go along. (It helps to have a little bowl of water to dip your fingers in because the oat mixture is sticky.)
  7. Once the last blor is dropped into the soup, add a good squeeze of lemon juice and allow to simmer for an additional 8-10".
Blor (Armenian Grain Soup) : Hye Thyme Cafe

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