Khashlama is a traditional Armenian vegetable and lamb stew. Made with simple ingredients, this iconic Armenian dish is delicious, satisfying, and, surprisingly, easy to make.
Khashlama is a celebratory dish usually prepared for special occasions.
It’s often cooked by the men of the family, who get together to chop the vegetables and marinate the meat. They also take their time to socialize and catch up on the latest family updates making the process of preparing this dish a part of the main event.
The History of Khashlama
The word Khashlama comes from the Armenian word “khashel,” which means to boil.
So, basically Khashlama consists of meat and vegetables boiled together in a rich, delicious broth.
Legend has it that hundreds of years ago Khashlama was prepared by people living high in the mountains. These regions didn’t have a wide variety of foods, but they always had plenty of lamb.
During those times, Khashlama was a summer dish because this was when the fresh lamb and juicy vegetables were available.
It was prepared over a fire in traditional cylindrical Armenian clay ovens called tonir.
Variations on Armenian Lamb Stew
There are quite a few variations of Khashlama, and every family has their own secret recipe.
Originally, Khashlama included with lamb, vegetables, and herbs. After potatoes arrived in Armenia, the Khashlama recipe was adapted to include them. Khashlama with potatoes quickly became the most popular variation of the dish.
The basic recipe includes lamb, potatoes, tomatoes, and onions.
In summer, Khashlama often includes summer vegetables, such as red and yellow bell peppers, eggplants, and fresh herbs.
While Khashlama is traditionally made with lamb, it can also be cooked with beef. Interestingly, many Armenian chefs emphasize that Khashlama should never be cooked with pork or chicken.
Wine or beer are also often added to Khashlama because they help to enhance the flavor of the broth and tenderize the meat.
Secrets to Cooking the Best Khashlama
Although Khashlama is quite easy to make, there are still a few tips and tricks that will help you cook the most delicious Khashlama possible:
1. Use meat with bones.
It’s a well-known fact that bones add more flavor to broths and soups. So choose meat with the bone still in it. Bones are also one of the reasons to cook Khashlama with lamb and not with beef, as lamb bones are much smaller.
2. Layer the ingredients.
All ingredients in Khashlama are sliced in flat pieces so that everything can be added to the pot in layers. First, add a layer of tomatoes to allow them to release their juice at the bottom of the pot. Then, add a layer of onions followed by a layer of meat and a layer of potatoes. Repeat, until all the ingredients are in the pot.
3. Don’t stir the dish during cooking.
We are often used to mixing and stirring soups and stews as they are cooking. However, maintaining the layers of the ingredients is one of the essential characteristics of Khashlama. So, make sure to resist the urge to stir the Khashlama because you will break the tender pieces of meat, potatoes, and vegetables in the stew.
4. Make sure Khashlama doesn’t vigorously boil.
When cooking Khashlama, make sure it is gently simmering instead of vigorously boiling. This will allow the pieces of meat and potatoes to slowly stew to perfection in the vegetable juices, creating a rich, thick broth.
Now It’s Your Turn
As you can see, Khashlama is a dish with a very interesting history. Have you tried Khashlama before? Would you cook it yourself? Let us know in the comments below.
Khashlama is a traditional Armenian meat (often lamb) and vegetable stew. Made with very simple ingredients, this iconic Armenian dish is delicious, satisfying, and, surprisingly, easy to make.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Marinating Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
- 3 ½ lbs bone-in lamb
- 8 medium potatoes, peeled
- 5 medium tomatoes
- 1 ½ medium onion
- 2 cups red wine
- ½ cup water
- Salt, black pepper, red paprika or smoked red paprika, for seasoning
- Fresh parsley, cilantro or basil, to serve
- Cut the meat into ¾ inch thick slices (about the thickness of a small steak). Place the slices on a cutting board and generously season with salt, black pepper, and paprika. Leave the meat to marinate for about 10 minutes.
- In the meantime, prepare the potatoes by slicing them into ½ inch thick rounds. Place the sliced potatoes into a bowl and season with salt, pepper, and paprika. Toss, making sure the potatoes are evenly covered in seasonings.
- Slice the tomatoes into ½ inch thick rounds and set aside.
- Slice the onion thinly. Set aside.
- In a large pot, layer the ingredients by placing 3 or 4 tomato slices on the bottom of the pot, followed by a layer of onions, then meat, and finally potatoes.
- Repeat the layers until all the ingredients have been used.
- Add the red wine and water.
- Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer. Cook for about 50 to 60 minutes until the meat and potatoes are tender and cooked through. (Don’t stir the stew as it cooks!)
- Garnish with fresh herbs before serving.
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