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This simple but exacting recipe comes from my friend Arpy Gendahl’s grandmother and was later modified by Arpy and her mother.  I found this to be a delicious dish that acts a perfect and healthy backdrop to other Armenian delights including feta and string cheeses, pita bread “scoops,” and fried cauliflower.  I learned by acting as sous chef.  

Serves 6 generously

Ingredients for the Fried Shallots

  • 4 shallots, sliced thinly in rings and ¾ cup vegetable oil (for the shallot rings)
  • ½ cup unbleached flour, pinch of sea salt and cayenne pepper

Ingredients for the Soup/Stew

  • 2 cups small, grey, green lentils (often called French puy)
  • ½ cup long grained rice
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 large onion minced (½  raw, ½ deep fried)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Additional sea salt to taste (about 2 tsp.)
  • Cayenne pepper to taste (about ½ tsp.)

Method for the Fried Shallots

  • Cut the shallots into thin rings and lightly coat with flour seasoned with salt and cayenne pepper.
  • In a small saucepan, heat the ¾ cup of vegetable oil until a test piece of prepared shallot fries quickly, between 325 and 375 degrees. Fry the shallots until golden brown in small batches, and drain on a thick layer of paper towels. Set aside.

Method for the Soup/Stew

  • Wash the lentils in a fine mesh sieve. (Arpy first pours them on a large surface to remove any debris.).
  • Wash the rice in a fine mesh sieve.
  • In a large saucepan, pour in the water, the lentils and the rice.
  • Heat the lentil, rice mixture until boiling and reduce heat to medium low.  Continue cooking, partially covered, without stirring until nearly all of the water is absorbed, for about 45 minutes. This takes patience.  Do not stir, do not rush.
  • Half way through, add the minced raw onion (1/2 of a large onion).
  • When the water is almost completely absorbed and the soup/stew has the consistency of oatmeal,  deep fry the remaining minced onion in about 1/3 cup of vegetable or olive oil until the onion looks like small, light browned bits.
  • Pour the oil and fried onion bits into the lentil mixture.
  • Season with salt and cayenne pepper to taste.
  • At this point, the soup/stew is about done.  There is a small amount of water remaining. With a large spoon, mash the lentils against the side of the pan and stir.  The oil and onions and the gently cooked lentils and rice create a creamy dish with slight texture.
  • Serve hot garnished with fried shallot rings.