Natalie’s Armenian Kitchen
Though unfortunately more recently associated with Kim Kardashian’s butt, Armenia actually has a rich culture and turbulent history, with a hearty cuisine. Featuring lamb, aubergine, fresh herbs and zingy salads which according to Wikipedia ‘require stuffing, frothing and puréeing’!
Well we certainly got stuffed and frothing at the mouth at Natalie’s Armenian Kitchen supper club! On entering the cosy South London flat we were met not only by the delightful Natalie but by delicious wafts from the kitchen as well as a very welcome pomegranate and vodka cocktail! On mingling with the other guests, I clocked the menu on the long dining table draped in a deep red tablecloth and knew a night of authentic Armenian food loomed. Sitting down to gold plates, with Armenian music in the background I was transported to a Persian fantasy, where the red tablecloth was my flying carpet, anticipating the exotic dishes that were to be bestowed upon it. The first being Armenian ‘keufteh’ aka delicately spiced beef meatballs in a tomato and saffron sauce. Much need after a long trek across London, these scrumptious meaty balls were hearty and delicately spiced indicating the hands of a disciplined chef. With a yogurt and cucumber dip, the accompanying ‘lavash’ flatbread mopped up the sauces perfectly.
Soon to follow was ‘kookoo’ a spongy herby omelette with barberries and walnut, I guess could be described as a cross between an omelette and a very herby quiche (without the pastry and packed with more flavour). Made with a plethora of fragrant herbs including coriander, mint and basil, I hope this poor girl has a food processor otherwise she’s sure to have spent the previous 24 hours chopping herbs. We ate this with a beautiful bowl of moreish sweet, jewelled ‘bazook’ – garlic infused beetroot and carrot salad sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. Oh and did I mention that these were all merely the starters?
As we adjusted our belts, we were entertained by the stories of the other guests ranging from being hospitalised from measles to curry fests and chat up lines. Meanwhile Natalie hoisted five rather heavy dishes onto the centre of the table – ‘family style’ as she calls it! A plate of baked aubergines drooling with a pomegranate, garlic and fragrant thyme sauce scattered with soft feta and crunchy salty crushed pistachios was a delicious mouth party. To my right a dish of glistening dolma hid mouthwatering and spicy lamb inside it’s vine leaves. We just had to keep going back for more. One Armenian guest who isn’t a fan of dolma said it was his favourite dish of the night, now that’s a compliment! Natalie later revealed her secret spicy ingredient…and thankfully she didn’t have to kill us afterwards.
Now the Persian ‘shirazi’ salad was not a side of red wine but in fact tantalising, lime and coriander dressed cubes of cucumber and tomato. Also pursuing our tastebuds was a recipe from Natalie’s mother; ‘Narinjov yev kitronov hav’ – chicken thighs in a zingy orange and lemon spiced marinade. The flavoursome golden chicken was almost camouflaged on the gold plates as if by the Midas touch. With this was served ‘polo’, steamed basmati rice with a glazed butter crust formed at the bottom of the pot during cooking, then flipped upside down to serve. Tastes absolutely devine and makes you shout ‘crusty butter’ at the dinner table (or maybe that is just me).
Serving refreshing cardamon tea and strong Armenian coffee, Natalie revealed that she also did coffee readings which was fascinating to watch and different for a Friday night! Some people were easier to read than others and some people simply messed up their coffee cup altogether meaning it could not be read at all (not mentioning any names Richard Ballard) 😉 Now tea and coffee calls for cake right? A huge home-made date and walnut cake appeared that was to be my Everest but like a trooper I persevered and was rewarded with a delicious, luxuriously moist wedge, served with apricot jam. I have since often thought of this cake and wonder why did I only have one slice? Oh yeah, that’s right because I was as stuffed and possibly frothed as Wikipedia suggested I would be.
Effortlessly creating a warm, family atmosphere to her supper club, Natalie is passionate about her Armenian roots, serving up an authentic menu to reflect this. A fantastic evening was concluded with vodka shots before Natalie gave us a final toot from her duduk (traditional Armenian wind instrument).