Recipe: Armenian Style Ikra – Aubergine Dip

My husband is half Armenian and we love eating Armenian food at home. It’s fairly tricky to find Armenian restaurants, but there is an amazing Armenian deli in Gatley called Armenique, which isn’t far from where we live. We go fairly regularly and I usually order the salad plate. One of my favourite things, and something I always order is their igra, which after years of searching for, I realise it is more commonly known as ikra.

Ikra is an aubergine dip, you can make it as chunky or as smooth as you like. At Armenique it’s quite chunky, so that’s my preference. It tastes far richer than it actually is. It’s so healthy, it’s virtually a guilt free dip. I make it quite often these days, it’s a lovely quick lunch with some warmed pita, or as a dip to share with friends and a bottle of wine. And it’s a great way of using some of the cheap aubergines which are in the shops at this time of year and it freezes really well too!

Recipe: Armenian Style Ikra - Aubergine Dip

My recipe makes quite a lot of dip, but it disappears quite quickly in my house. If it’s too much for you to tackle, you can always freeze some for a later date.

Armenian Style Ikra – Aubergine Dip

2 aubergines
Olive oil
1 large red onion
1 large green pepper
2 fat cloves of garlic, or more if you love garlic
4 salad tomatoes
Salt and pepper
Half a lemon
Half a teaspoon of sugar
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley
Optional: A tablespoon of tomato puree, if your tomatoes are a bit insipid

How to make your Armenian Style Ikra:
Take your aubergines and cut them into quarters. Put them on a baking sheet and drizzle olive oil over them. Put them in the oven for 45-60 minutes at 200°. Turn them every 15 minutes or so. You want them to be soft and squishy rather than brown and crispy.

While your aubergines are cooking, finely dice your onion and pepper and with a splash of olive oil, cook them very gently until soft but not brown. Once they’re soft add your crushed garlic cloves and stir.

Take your tomatoes and skin them. To do this easily make a large X on the bottom of each one, put them in a large bowl and pour boiling water over them. Leave them to soak until the skin starts curling on the X’s. Once they are at that stage, take them out of the water and pull the skin off. Some people remove the seeds too, but I don’t mind them, I will leave that up to you. Remove the core, chop the tomatoes and add them to the pan.

Recipe: Armenian Style Ikra - Aubergine Dip

Continue cooking your onion, pepper and tomato mixture on a very low light with the lid on. When your aubergines are cooked remove them from the oven and let them cool enough so you can handle them. With a teaspoon and a sharp knife scrape the insides out of the aubergine. Chop the flesh very finely and add it to the pan. Discard the aubergine skin. Again this is a matter of preference, I actually really like the taste and texture of the skin, so I always finely chop a little bit of it and add it to the mix.

If your tomatoes were a bit pale and lacked flavour, you can add some tomato puree at this stage, this beefs up the tomato flavour and is worth doing.

Season the mixture with a little salt and pepper, you can always add more later. Cook the mixture for 30-60 minutes on a low light with the lid on the pan. Stir every so often. How long you cook it for depends on the texture you want. I cook it for around 30 minutes because I like a chunky texture. If you cook it for longer it breaks down more and becomes smoother.

Towards the end of cooking, squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, add your sugar and taste the ikra for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper if you think it needs it. Finely chop your fresh parsley and add it. Give it all a big stir and leave it to cool.

Recipe: Armenian Style Ikra - Aubergine Dip

Ikra is usually served cold or at room temperature and is great with all kinds of things. We’ve been trying some new vegan crispbreads and vegetable chips from The Beginnings who are based in Latvia. They go so well with the ikra and together make a pretty much guilt free lunch. I absolutely loved the beetroot chips and my husband went mad for the kale chips, but the tomato chips worked brilliantly with the ikra.

Recipe: Armenian Style Ikra - Aubergine Dip

If you enjoyed this recipe, here are some more of our Armenian recipes:

Recipe: Armenian Style Ikra - Aubergine Dip

Recipe: Delicious Armenian Red Cabbage Salad

For our wedding anniversary a few weeks ago, my husband and I went to the Armenian Taverna in Manchester for dinner. We used to go there a lot in the days before we became parents, partly because the food was absolutely fantastic and partly because my husband is half Armenian and it’s good to celebrate those roots. Together we feasted on the beautiful mezze plates and chatted like the old days. We both fought over the small but delicious portion of Armenian Red Cabbage Salad, a dish I’ve decided to recreate at home because it was that good!

Mezze is always my favourite part of any Armenian meal. I love piling my plate with little heaps of good salads and sides, with dollops of rich hummus served with still warm lavash bread. Delicious.

Recipe: Delicious Armenian Red Cabbage Salad

This Armenian Red Cabbage Salad is and always has been one of my favourite dishes. The salad is really simple to make and keeps for a few days in the fridge. I like to make a big bowl of it and serve it with almost anything. We had it this week with lamb koftas with a little salad and some lavash bread. It was so good I polished the rest of the bowl off for lunch.

It is better if you can make it the day before you need it as it really allows the flavours to develop. It’s so simple and I think a really flavoursome and slightly healthier alternative to coleslaw.

Armenian Red Cabbage Salad

1 small red cabbage, or half a large one
1 dessert spoon of caster sugar
2 dessert spoons of Balsamic vinegar
1 dessert spoon of good olive oil
A handful or sultanas or craisins
A good handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt & pepper
Walnuts, optional

Finely slice your red cabbage and toss in a bowl to separate all the slices. In a small jar add your sugar, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and some seasoning. Put the lid on the jar and shake it hard until it is well combined.

Pour the dressing over the red cabbage, add in your handful of sultanas or craisins and stir. Give the salad a taste and add more seasoning if you think it needs it. Cover the bowl and put in the fridge overnight.

Before serving, remove from the fridge and leave it out for an hour or so to bring it up to near room temperature. Stir through the chopped parsley and taste again to check the seasoning, adjust if you think it needs it. If I have any walnuts I sometimes like to chop them up a little and throw them into the salad too.

Recipe: Delicious Armenian Red Cabbage Salad

Serve however you want. We like our Armenian Red Cabbage Salad served with a mezze lunch or it’s great with lamb or this traditional Armenian Imam Bayildi recipe. This Armenian Red Cabbage Salad hits so many delicious sweet, sour and crunchy notes, I’m sure it’ll become a family favourite of yours too!

Recipe: Delicious Armenian Red Cabbage Salad

Recipe: Authentic Imam Bayildi Armenian style

My beautiful son is part Armenian. I have no hint of interesting ancestry on my side of the family, so I have wholeheartedly embraced some parts of Armenian culture to help him keep in touch with some of his roots. If I’m honest it’s mostly the bits which involve food.

Armenian food is very Mediterranean, you can find very similar food in Greece, Cyprus and Turkey. They do beautiful things with vegetables, so I’m sharing my favourite vegetarian Armenian recipe Imam Bayildi, I hope you like it.

Imam Bayildi is basically stuffed, baked aubergines. It is simple to make, you can prepare them ahead of time and then cook them when you need them and they are melt in the mouth gorgeous. I like to use good quality ingredients in this recipe as every single mouthful zings flavour. Fresh vegetables are essential and good quality tinned tomatoes are ideal, full of flavour and a little does go a long way.

This recipe serves four.

Imam Bayildi Imam Bayildi

2 aubergines
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced (I prefer red, but a white onion works too)
2 cloves of garlic
1 green pepper, finely diced
Half a can of good quality tinned tomatoes
Big handful of chopped parsley
1 teaspoon of sugar
Salt & pepper

1. Cut the top off each aubergine, slice it in half lengthways and scoop out the flesh, leaving an aubergine boat, leave a little of the aubergine flesh around the skin so it can help retain its structural integrity while in the oven. Griddle the aubergine halves on a high heat until they have a little bit of char, then put in a baking dish so they are snuggled up close to each other, this will help them keep their shape in the oven.
2. Chop up the aubergine flesh and fry gently in the olive oil, while that is cooking (stir frequently) chop and add the onion and peppers to the pan. Cook until they are all soft and then add your crushed garlic cloves and half a tin of good quality chopped tomatoes.
3. Season well and add your sugar, cook and stir regularly until most of the liquid has evaporated and all of the vegetables are cooked and soft. Stir through the chopped parsley (reserving a small amount to garnish with later).
3. Carefully spoon the tomato and vegetable mixture into the aubergine skins. Add two tablespoons of water to the baking dish to help the aubergines to cook. Bake for 30 minutes at 200c.
4. Once cooked serve with salad, rice or bulgar wheat, maybe some pitta bread.

Imam Bayildi

We love Imam Bayildi, it’s a regular meal for us; really flavoursome and healthy as well as being a traditional Armenian meal. If you enjoy aubergines, you might also really like this Armenian Ikra recipe.

Family Ties: Keeping hold of our Armenian roots

I started dating my husband in 1995. He was tall, dark and handsome and had a funny surname. I also knew he was adorable, with excellent taste in music and ultimately that he was my soulmate. The fact that he was half Armenian mattered not a jot. I just didn’t and don’t like his (now our) surname, no one can say it or spell it correctly and it just marks us out as a little bit different.

He wasn’t brought up in a household teeming with Armenian culture. His father would take him to his church and out for the occasional traditional meal but that was pretty much as far as it went.

When we got married, I was keen that he try and keep some of the ties to his Armenian roots. His heritage is now our heritage and that of our son. Knowing that the way to his heart is through his stomach, and that our son shares similar culinary tastes, we have regular Armenian nights where I cook from an amazing cookbook called The Armenian Table by Victoria Jenanyan-Wise, which I treated myself to a few years ago.

Family Ties: Keeping hold of our Armenian roots

It’s a brilliant cookbook which I probably would’ve loved anyway. Armenian food is similar to Greek, Turkish and Persian cuisine. Big hits from the Armenian cook book include lamb kufta, Armenian salads, stuffed aubergines and Armenian pilaf rice. I did mean to cook up a meal for this blog but time ran away from me. I have blogged one of our favourite Armenian dishes here.

It is important to us that our son understands his heritage and what a contrast his lucky first world life is compared to the hardships faced by large numbers of Armenian families. We send packages of warm clothing and essentials to needy families via Oxfam and it’s important that as a family we are all involved in that process.

In Manchester we are lucky enough to have access to the Armenian church and the wonderful friends within it. It is a vital connection to the past. We also regularly visit the Armenian Taverna in the city centre for meals and we love (seriously love) Armenique which is a fantastic deli in Gatley which we go to often (do try it, it is amazing).

Apart from our challenging surname, I do enjoy being part of a slightly multicultural family. It seems that all of our friends families are made up from descendants of first, second and third generation immigrants from all over the world. So I don’t feel any different to anyone else we know. Apart from the name.