You cannot visit Armenia without trying lavash – a traditional thin bread which forms such a part of their cuisine, that since 2014 it has been included on the UNESCO Intangible List. Not only did we get to eat lots of it, we also had the opportunity to watch it being made at Abelyan’s House. From the main street, the house looked plain and simple, but it had a huge rear garden and orchard where various fruits were picked for us to try, particularly different types of cherries.
Under a verandah two ladies were making lavash. The first was rolling out dough, simply made from flour, water and salt, on a large low circular table. The dough balls were passed on and stretched in the same way as a pizza, but until it reached the size of a pillow. It was stretched over a pad, pricked and then slapped onto the wall of a Tonir or oven, similar to a tandoor. As it was set into a deep hole in the ground, the lady was knelt by its side on a pad and as she had to lean right over and into the oven, which was around 1,000 degrees, she looked incredibly hot. Due to the high temperature and thinness of the dough, it baked very quickly and then was brought out and sprayed with water to keep it soft, before being cut with scissors into rectangles. The bread will keep for over 6 months: it just needs to be dampened beforehand to freshen it.
Eventually when all the dough had been used, the two ladies simply stood up as their legs had actually dangled into a hole in the ground and although it looked as though they had been kneeling, they had actually been sat on the rim. Judging by their laughter, I got the impression we were not the only visitors who had been fooled.
A lavish square was then filled with cheese and herbs, and rolled up – this is known as bruch and regarded as Armenian fast food.
We then adjourned to the garden where a table was laid for lunch. It was a true feast with two types of cheese, grilled peppers and broccoli, grilled aubergine stuffed with cheese, carrot and sweetcorn salad, beetroot salad, the ubiquitous cucumber and tomatoes and of course, fresh lavash. This was then followed by a platter of trout freshly cooked on the BBQ along with sliced roast potatoes. Fortunately, there was no dessert.
This was a great experience and every time I subsequently ate lavash, I remembered the ladies laughing as they stood up in their holes in the ground.