Eetch– yes, that’s the name of this dish! It is a bulgur based specialty from Armenia and it is very dear to my heart 🙂 I feel compelled to write a long intro around this- but you can scroll right down to get straight to the recipe, if you’d like to!
As a young child, I spent every summer in Damascus, Syria. I have some very distinct memories that I can never forget- namely the colossal arch of jasmine flowers that covered the entrance to the building that my grandmother lived in, the corner shop down the road that sold all my favourite snacks, the aroma of Arabic coffee being poured into tiny cups on my grandma’s balcony that would bring us all together for our afternoon musings about life, my grandfather’s bird that I decided to set free one day (lol), the countless jars of homemade pumpkin jam that my grandparents used to make and that I’d sneak in secretively, late at night, to gobble up by the spoonfuls, and then…
… then, there were my grandparents’ neighbours.
Alice & Vergine.
Two Armenian sisters who were not just our neighbours- they were family. At least, that’s how I always looked at them- they were our unofficial family members who just spoke with a slightly different accent 🙂 They were always together- inseparable. And every time I made my way up the 3 story marble staircase, they would open their tall wooden door and greet me with a big hello and ask me a million curious questions.
We were all on very good terms with Alice & Vergine, and there were also some food exchanges going on between us. But perhaps one of the most magical exchanges was a recipe they shared with us that three generations of women have now adopted: my grandmother, my mother and myself. It is this bulgur based dish that is eetch. Whenever they’d make some, they’d share a generous portion with us. Eventually, they ended up sharing the recipe as well hehehe 🙂 And I grew up eating this until an adult age as my mother would make it quite frequently.
Now- my brother & I have kept the recipe and make it in our very own kitchens as well.
I love this dish cold- although it can be consumed both hot and cold. It tastes particularly well if you let it sit overnight for all the flavours to develop. Unlike rice, it is of a completely different texture- heartier, stickier and full of tang coming from the pomegranate molasses, fresh lemon, parsley and mint.
The best part is that it’s very easy to make and is versatile enough to complement countless dishes.
This is a memory that we have all kept from our two special neighbours. Sadly, they passed away right before the war broke out in Syria. But their generosity, beautiful spirit and their piece of their culture sits in my kitchen and in my heart forever 🙂
Eetch (4-5 servings)
- 1 cup fine bulgur, rinsed
- 1 1/4 cup hot water
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 scotch bonnet (optional)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 3 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses*
- Big bunch of chopped fresh parsley & mint
- In a pot, cook the onions with the olive oil until golden.
- Then add the tomato paste and hot water and allow the water to boil again- and allow the paste to dissolve completely. Add the scotch bonnet to this step- if you wish to.
- Turn off the heat, remove the pot from the heat and add the bulgur. Stir everything and cover with a lid. Let it sit for 50-60 mins (away from the heat!)
- By this time, the bulgur will have cooked. Remove the lid, add the lemon juice and pomegranate molasses and with a wooden spoon, mix everything for about 3-4 minutes. This is an important step for flavour & texture and some people choose to do this with their hands.
- Finally, add the fresh herbs and mix everything again.
- Enjoy warm or cold.
* Pomegranate molasses are recommended- but don’t worry if you don’t have this. You can still make it and your eetch will still taste great 🙂