About Glenda

I have spent the last 30 years living in the corporate world and now it is time to follow my passion of 'making my own'. This blog is the documentation of that journey. I alternate between the southwest of Western Australia and Perth.

More foodie holiday shots – this time, Armenia

If I had to sum up Armenia in one word, I think it would be “miserable“.

I don’t want to be unfair or to offend any Armenians out there but …

To be fair, Armenia has had a shit history, to say the least.  The people have been massacred.  They have lost territory to Turkey and, on the face of it, are sitting ducks.  It is a poor nation which would have suffered financially when the Soviets left.  Yes, they got their culture and religion back but … at what cost?  There are half-finished Soviet hotels left to rot and towns that used to have 20,000 people now have little more than 1,000.  Everywhere, buildings are deserted, left to decay. The landscape is further tarnished with horrid Soviet concrete blocks of flats that the government doesn’t have the money to renovate. Public squares and public gardens in regional towns have been overtaken by weeds and ornamental ponds are covered in slime.  In rural areas, there was barely a young person to be seen.

OK, this is only one side of the story.  Armenians are very religious people. They are rightly proud of their faith and traditions. Yerevan, the capital, did have a positive vibe.  Public buildings were well maintained and there were young people out and about.

The first of many “churches on a hill” – Tatev Monastery

So what does Armenia have going for it?

Number one, Armenia has a lot of churches on hills.  Alas, probably more than could hold my interest but they were striking, nonetheless. Notwithstanding my lack of religiosity, it was disheartening to see the damage done and obvious lack of respect by the Soviets to buildings that mean so much to Armenians.  I guess, there is no easier way to break a people’s spirit than destroy their religious icons.

Number two and much closer to my heart, Armenia has a wonderful tradition of preserving fruit.

And now for some upbeat foodie photos of a poor, besieged country…

Our first stop in Armenia was the wonderful Haer B&B in the town of Meghri  (I could have stayed the night but we only had time for lunch –  a church on a hill must have been beckoning).  We had lunch under huge pear trees laden with fruit.  (I noted that there were no birds attacking the fruit which I did find disconcerting.) And I had a beer.  Wine would have been nicer but I was not complaining.  The beer went down well after a fortnight in alcohol-free Iran.  There were fruit trees everywhere.  They even had fruiting kiwi fruit vines.

Of course, I was interested in the drying fruit.  We were surrounded by it.  I love the idea of preserving the summer harvest.

Glacé fruit, anyone?  The GUM Markets in Yerevan were a sight to behold.  The stalls were absolutely gorgeous, although I did note they were not particularly busy.  Anyway, I was in glacé fruit heaven.  I walked around and around trying to decide what one thing to buy.

Eventually, I decided on the walnut and fruit leather roll.  The one I bought was rolled up like a Swiss Roll.  It is nearly pure walnut inside but there is something in there that keeps it together.  Maus and I can’t work out what – maybe grape juice?   Maus looked them up on the ‘net.  They may be called Tuhtoo Lavash but we are not too sure.

Because of the border conflicts with Azerbaijan, you are not allowed to take anything from Armenia into Azerbaijan.  As a consequence, I intended to eat my roll whilst in Armenia but it turned out to be way too filling to have more than a wee bit at a time.  I hadn’t finished it by the time I arrived at the Azerbaijani border so I smuggled it in.  And I still haven’t finished it.  Maus and I had a piece today.

I don’t know what is inside these guys but, geez, they look pretty.  I am guessing it is a nut and fruit paste – which is what was inside everything else.

More glacé fruit, anyone?

These are walnuts threaded on a cotton string and then dipped in a mixture of grape juice and cornflour.  They are the same as Georgian Churchkhela – more on them in my next post.  For now, I will say they are very nice and I reckon are doable at home.

This is Armenian string cheese.  At first, when we saw it on a table, I was not sure what it was.  Of course, I tasted it.  I tasted every single thing I did not recognise.  All I can say is that Armenian string cheese must be an acquired taste.  Note the soft cheese in the background.  That was nice.Here is a pickle store.  I didn’t actually try many pickles whilst I was away.  I don’t know why because they were served most days.  I guess I figured I knew what they would taste like.  Check out the pink garlic and cauliflower.  In Lebanon, they have pink turnip pickles on every table.  When there, it took me ages to work out what it was and how they did it.  It turned out to be very simple, the vegetables are cooked with beetroot.

More pickles but, more importantly, a lady on her smart phone.  Smart phones are just as popular in the Middle East as they are everywhere else.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, was taking selfies in Iran.  The mountain of white stuff draped with carrot is pickled cabbage – they make an interesting display.

These ladies were making bread at the restaurant where we stopped for lunch.  The lady on the left would roll out the bread and then throw it to the lady on the right.  I tried and tried to get a mid-air photo but I just couldn’t do it.

This lady would throw the dough around until she had it as thin as paper.

She would then lay it out on her cushion and throw it into the oven.  Check out how thin this bread is.  I tell you it was very, very yummy, too.

We also watched a guy in Iran make similar bread but which looked like honeycomb.  The oven was very similar but the walls were patterned like a honeycomb. I guess the bumpy texture holds more sauce.

To finish on a positive note: this young woman and her friend have opened up a café/bar in Dilijan, the regional town in Armenia which suffered the massive reduction in population I mentioned above.  They perceived a need, there was no where for young people to hang out in Dilijan.  The benches, tables and chairs in the café are repurposed ex Soviet-factory furniture.  Young enterprising people like these are Armenia’s future.

I wish Armenia well.

I am home

Hello, everyone.  I am back from my holiday.  People have asked me whether I had a good time.  I don’t know the answer to that question.  I am certainly glad I went but it was hard work in more ways than one.

My favourite country out of the four I visited was Iran.  Azerbaijan was also a pleasant surprise but we were only there are few days so it is hard to make a call on such a short stay.

The main thing Iran has going for it is its people.  They are so friendly and welcoming.  People in the streets come up to you and welcome you to their country.  I heard a thousand times, “Welcome to Iran”, “You are welcome,” and “What country are you from?”  Mothers would thrust their young forward to speak to us in English, then burst with pride when we could understand them.  As we walked past, a group of elderly men, sitting on benches in a park, burst into song for our benefit.  Everyone was cheery and appeared optimistic for the future.

Here I am (on the right) with my friend, Sandra, looking very modest.

All in all, it was a very pleasant experience.  There were only two negatives – no alcohol and having to wear modest clothing and a head scarf.  The lack of alcohol made meals a very quick affair.  There was no dawdling over a lovely shiraz in Shiraz.  We even tried to get a non-alcoholic version just so we could say “we had a shiraz in Shiraz” but it appears they don’t even make non- alcoholic wine.

And, if you thought about the reason women have to wear a head scarf, you would get grumpy so it was best not to think about it.

 

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Soap and other things …..

Hello, everyone.  I had been holding off doing another soapy post until I made one more batch.  It is one that I have been looking forward to making for ages.  But, alas, I have run out of time to make any more soap before we head back to Perth and I go on my big holiday.  For those who don’t know, I am off to Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia with my friend, Sandra.  Maus didn’t want to come so she is staying home to do all the Spring tasks on the block.  That is my plan, anyway.

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The easiest pumpkin soup recipe ever and … my pressure canner to the rescue

Everyone has their favourite pumpkin soup recipe.  My favourite is one I have posted before – Pumpkin, cashew and coriander soup.  It is a beauty (check it out here) but it does take a bit of effort.  And there are plenty of times when effort does not figure.  For those times, I have been dreaming of a recipe my mum used to make.  I had it hand written in my recipe book but somehow I lost it.  I did ask my sisters but to no avail.   I remembered the ingredients – chicken stock, pumpkin, tomatoes and onion but I couldn’t remember the proportions.

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I have been making soap, again …

I have been making soap again and am having a ball.  Now we are settled into Bridgetown on a more permanent basis, I have been trying to build up my supply of soap ready for Christmas.  Soap needs four weeks to cure and I am going away for the whole of September, therefore, I don’t have that much time to build up supplies.

Soaping is a wonderful hobby because there is so much to learn and I love learning new things.  My long term plan is to get a range of soaps that I can make consistently.  I am still at the very beginning of this stage but there are already some soaps I think will form part of this range. Continue reading

Never fail sponge

Don’t you just hate “Never Fail” recipes!  They conjure up one image in my mind, “failure!!!”  It took me three attempts to get a decent soufflé from a “Never fail soufflé” recipe.

So I should have been nervous when I received an email from my niece, Fleur, entitled “Never fail sponge”.  I had asked her for the recipe she used for her son’s first birthday cake.  It was Maus’ birthday yesterday and I thought it would be nice if I made her a birthday cake. Continue reading

Rabbit with mustard

Eek!!! Shocking photo – we obviously got carried away with the mash.

Ok … the name does not sound very enticing and the photo is a shocker but dinner tasted so good I have decided to press on regardless.

I have had rabbit with mustard once before but I am sure the last time I had it it would have been called lapin à la moutarde. Now that sounds better – much more sophisticated. Continue reading