A New Fusion Cuisine is Born: Flormenian Cuisine (Floridian-Armenian)
By Robyn and Douglas Kalajian
FLArmenians Cuisine Contributors
The best part of mango season here in Florida is the end, when the ripe fruit tumbles from the trees and spreads across lawns and backyards.
Friends beg you to take home a bag or two. Some people actually leave piles of them by the curb, inviting passers-by to scoop them up.
We came home with a surprise armload of free mangoes the other day and decided to try something a little different instead of the usual mango desserts. We had lamb on the brain, as usual, so we settled on a lamb-mango stew.
Mango isn’t part of the Armenian kitchen tradition, but apricots and other fruits are. We wondered, could our local bounty be a tasty substitute? The short answer is: Yes!
We knew mango and lamb would work because it’s done in India, although the recipes we found were variations on curry. We wanted a more traditional Armenian taste, and we also wanted to keep it simple.
We have a habit of freezing lamb tidbits — the pieces that don’t quite work as kebab — so we started by defrosting a container full. We also cooked up some fresh neck bones and picked the meat off them. (You know the drill: You just boil and boil, and then boil some more.)
We wound up with about two cups of well-trimmed lamb meat, and about three cups of broth. Basically, we added about two cups of sliced mangoes, seasoned the mix and kept on cooking.
The main seasonings: sumac, coriander, onions and garlic. If you’re not familiar with sumac, you should cozy up as soon as you have the chance. It’s a tart berry, almost lemony but with a unique flavor.
We infused the broth by placing two tablespoons of the whole, dried sumac berries in a tea strainer and letting it simmer for about 10 minutes.
The sumac balanced the sweetness of the mango perfectly. We also added a little heat with some fresh, diced ginger and a heaping tablespoon of Aleppo red pepper.
The result tasted something like an Armenian chutney: sweet, but not too sweet.
Overall, we were really happy (and a little surprised) at how nicely it all came together. One thing we’d change: I put all the mango in the broth with the lamb and let it all cook together for almost an hour. As a result, the mango pretty much melted. I should have reserved half the mango for the last 10 or 15 minutes for more fruity chunks.
Armenian Lamb Mango Stew (serves 4)
2 cups cooked, trimmed lamb meat
3 cups lamb broth (or chicken broth)
2 cups sliced, fresh mango
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon finely diced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons whole sumac, or 1 teaspoon ground sumac
salt and black pepper to taste
1 cup fresh yogurt
a few springs of fresh mint
1. Start with broth in a stew pot, reserving the lamb. Bring to a simmer.
2. Place the sumac in a tea strainer and lower into the broth. Leave it there about 10 minutes, until the broth is flavored. If you don’t have a strainer, or whole sumac, you can just add ground sumac when you add the other seasonings. If you don’t have either, use a tablespoon of lemon juice.
3. Sauté the onion, garlic and ginger in olive oil until just soft but not brown, then add to the broth.
4. Add 1 cup of the sliced mango, reserving the other.
5. Add the lamb.
6. Add the red pepper and coriander, plus salt and black pepper to taste.
7. Cook it all for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mango is blended and the lamb is tender.
8. Add the rest of the mango and cook another 10-15 minutes.
Serve over white rice or pilaf if you like. Garnish each serving with a dollop of cold yogurt and a sprig of fresh mint. And don’t forget to eat the mint!
Robyn Kalajian is a retired culinary teacher in Florida and Chief Cook at http://www.TheArmenianKitchen.com. Douglas Kalajian is a retired editor/journalist (Miami Herald and Palm Beach Post) and Sous Chef at http://www.TheArmenianKitchen.com.