The smell inside Anahit Harutyunyan’s corridor draws attention and kicks saliva glands into action. Summer dolma is on the stove and all neighbors know that the odor leads to a pot of good eating.
The women in the building accuse Anahit of having a “secret” ingredient that she guards closely.
Anahit agrees that she does: Her cooking philosophy . . .
“When preparing food, you must put soul in to it, this is the most important. One must have good thoughts, the mood should be high. One must think that people will not get enough of it while tasting,” says Anahit.
Cooking summer dolma is a real festivity for 62-year old Anahit. She follows all kitchen rules while preparing dolma. The process is launched when Anahit puts a kilo of milled beef into a bowl, adds 250 grams of pork fat, 7-8 onions, 200 grams round rice and a little bit of warmish water. While mixing the mincemeat by hand, she adds greens and spices.
“The secret of good dolma is in the greens and spices. It is necessary to know what to add after what, and how much. The estimation by sight is very important. My hands are already mastered in this job. Coriander, parsley, basil, savory, dill, cayenne and capsicum pepper, salt. We also do not forget about tomato paste. If pork is added, there is no need to add oil; otherwise it is preferable to add some oil or butter,” she says.
And meanwhile, in the other corner of the kitchen cabbage leaves steamed beforehand, as well as egg-plants, peppers and tomatoes are waiting like soldiers ready to be deployed.
Anahit’s next important dolma phase is filling the cabbage leaves with the mincemeat and roll them up. And later she stuffs egg-plants, peppers and tomatoes.
“It is very important to roll up dolma long and beautiful, because while serving people usually pay attention to the appearance of the food. I put cabbage leaves on the bottom of the pan by all means, and only then I start placing rolled up dolmas there,” says Anahit masterly rolling up the recurrent dolma.
The first layer of the pan is covered with dolmas having ‘white clothes.’ The same refers to the second layer. Then stuffed eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes come. And these are again covered with cabbage-dolmas.
“If you have quince and apple at hand, you may cut them and put between dolmas. Many also use dried plums and apricots, it depends on preference,” says Anahit putting the final dolmas into the pan.
She cuts the pulps of the tomatoes and adds them to the substance of the pan pouring some warm water into the pan. Anahit closes the pan with a lid, and puts the pan on the gas fire. That’s it, now it’s time for cooking.
In 15 minutes the tempting aroma of dolma is smelled, and in 20 minutes it is ready. Neighbors already know that today the main dish in Anahit’s menu is summer dolma.
“Serving dolma should also be beautifully done. It is necessary to place dolmas on the plate in a way so that the color matching is attractive, making people want to eat the dolma. Thus someone who looks at the dolma, won’t feel full, he/she will taste it by all means,” says Anahit serving the ready dolma.
The ‘white clothes’ of cooked dolma became yellowish, the egg-plants and peppers are transformed from solders into commanders, and the tomatoes remind of police officers on duty.
“Everything is fine,” says the satisfied chef (who also happens to be my mother). “It is only necessary now to eat dolma.”
Anahit’s Summer Dolma
Beef: 1 kilo
Pork: 250 grams
Round rice: 200 grams
Tomato paste: 15 grams
Oil: 10 grams
Dried plums: 50 grams
Dried apricot: 50 grams
Salt, pepper, coriander, basil, savory dill: to taste
The dried fruit are put among dolmas arranged in the pan.
Remove the pedicle of one (depending on the size of the cabbage) cabbage and place cabbage in boiling water and cook for 12 minutes.
Place the cabbage in a sieve and when the water is entirely drained, separate the leaves. Cut away any hard parts.
Place a tablespoon of mincemeat on each leaf and roll up tightly. Place in a stew pot.
(Bones left from separating the meat may be placed in the pot, over which cabbage leaves may be laid to form layers for the dolma. Dried fruit may also be laid.)
Core eggplants (and cut into sections), peppers and tomatoes and stuff with mincemeat. Pour tomato paste/oil mixture over the dolma. Add warm water or beef juice (enough to cover).
Place a plate over the dolma, so that the plate fits into the pot, leaving room for the lid. Cover the pot with its lid. Cook on low fire for about 30-40 minutes.
Remove dolma with a large spoon and avoiding breaking the dolma. Reserve the juice to pour over the dolma while serving.