Ghapama (Robyn Kalajian photo)

Recipe Corner: Ghapama with Robyn Kalajian

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Ghapama is a great meatless option for the vegetarians in the family. This recipe and photos are courtesy of Robyn Kalajian at her essential Armenian food blog, thearmeniankitchen.com.

“Ghapama (Armenian: ղափամա) is an Armenian stuffed pumpkin dish, often prepared during the holiday season. It is prepared by removing the flesh of the pumpkin (known as դդում in Armenian, pronounced ddum in Eastern Armenian and ttum in Western Armenian), and stuffing it with boiled rice and a variety of dried fruits such as chopped almonds, apples, corn, apricot, prunes and raisins. It is common to pour on honey and mix in ground cinnamon or sugar. The pumpkin is baked until it becomes soft, and then brought to the table where it is cut up and served.”

“In Armenian, the word ‘ghapama’ literally means cooked in a covered pot. Recipe-wise, ghapama is a stuffed, baked pumpkin traditionally served between the New Year and Armenian Christmas which many Armenians celebrate on January 6,” says Robyn Kalajian, culinary arts teacher and blogger of Armenian cuisine, culture and more. “I was reminded by a friend that there is a traditional song written about this dish re-popularized by Armenian pop singer Harout Pamboukjian titled, ‘Hey, Jan, Ghapama,’” she adds.

“This dish is so Armenian that Armenians have songs written about it. With its vibrant, artistic flair, the dish makes a striking presentation at a dinner or buffet table. The song is often performed in the middle of the celebration or closer to its end, when the guests are already full and want fun. In the song, the singer talks about how there is a wonderful pumpkin in the fields, how they chose it in order to make a ghapama. How they brought it home, filled it with many delicious things. How guests were waiting for it to be ready. And if the hostess prepares everything just right, the ghapama will turn out to be beautiful and appetizing. So appetizing that the hungry relatives will fill their mouths with the aromatic pumpkin. This is exactly what Harout sings about…”*

Watch Harout Pamboukjian’s celebrated 1983 version at: https://thearmeniankitchen.com/ghapama-stuffed-baked-pumpkin-recipe/

“A more formal rendition of this song was performed by the KOHAR Symphony Orchestra and Choir of Gyumri, Armenia,” says Robyn. Watch the orchestra’s Live in Concert from June 2002 at BIEL, Downtown Beirut, Lebanon at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szaojBxz-4Q

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“Sometimes this recipe is made with a winter squash like the acorn squash variety rather than pumpkin. A medium sized pumpkin (about 3 lbs. in weight) is cut open at the top, then the fibrous strands and seeds are scooped out. Generally, a stuffing made with partially cooked rice, dried fruit, raisins, chopped nuts, cinnamon, sugar or honey is placed in the cavity. The filled pumpkin is baked until very tender and served table-side,” says Robyn.

Lucy Joulfayan-Yeghyayan

“According to the legend and folklore, on earth, where people have different faiths, different nationalities, goodness, and kindness must prevail. Ghapama exists to bring peace in the world. Ghapama is a dessert and has different ways of cooking. In earlier times, cooks filled the pumpkin with groats (hulled kernels of various cereal grains, such as oat, wheat, rye, and barley), meat, and fresh fruit. The most famous version, however, is the pumpkin stuffed with rice, dried fruits, nuts and honey,” she adds.

Course: Course: Main Course, Side Dish, or Dessert

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 pumpkin, about 3 lbs.**

1 1/2 cups rice

4 tablespoons butter melted

1/4 cup each of dried plums, dates, apricots and cherries, chopped

1/4 cup raisins

3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 1/2 tablespoons honey, to taste

1/2 cup nuts, chopped (walnuts, almonds, pecans, cashews, hazelnuts or a mix of nuts will all work)

1/4 cup hot water

Dash of salt, to taste

 

Preparation:

Wash and dry the exterior of pumpkin. Cut off the top in a circle shape as it will be used as a lid.

Remove the seeds and fibrous pulp inside. Discard fibers, but rinse and save the seeds for roasting later on, if desired. Rinse the inside of the pumpkin; pat dry.

In a saucepan, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add rice, stir, cover the pot and reduce heat to low. Cook rice for about 15 minutes. Rice should not be completely cooked. Drain any excess liquid.

In a bowl, mix together the partially cooked rice, dried fruit, melted butter, cinnamon, honey (or sugar), nuts, and salt, if using.

Loosely stuff filling into pumpkin; pour the 1/4 cup hot water over the top of the filling (the water should cover the rice fully).

Place the pumpkin on a lightly greased baking sheet for support. Put the top of the pumpkin back on and bake at 325F for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until very soft. Insert a toothpick into the pumpkin to determine tenderness.

Next, remove the pumpkin from the oven and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Carefully remove the pumpkin to a large, round serving platter, and use a sharp knife to cut the pumpkin into serving-sized wedges.

To serve, each guests receives a wedge of baked pumpkin along with a scoop of rice pilaf. This dish would be an attractive menu addition for any Thanksgiving or holiday table, accompanied with hot spiced tea or Armenian coffee. The size of the pumpkin varies depending on the number of servings needed. For a dessert ghapama, simply add more fruit and honey to the rice to sweeten it up. If you don’t have honey, plain sugar can easily substitute.

For this recipe, go to: https://thearmeniankitchen.com/ghapama-stuffed-baked-pumpkin-recipe/

Ghapama with Lucy Joulfayan-Yeghyayan

Lucy Joulfayan-Yeghyayan’s well-known ghapama recipe was featured on November 29, 2018 at:

The Original Ghapama Recipe

See: https://mirrorspectator.com/2018/11/29/the-original-ghapama-recipe/

Lucy writes:

“Ghapama is one of our oldest traditional, national dishes and a pride of the Armenian cuisine. Historically, it has been celebrated as a centerpiece during the Armenian New Year’s Eve, weddings and other feast related occasions; our folk culture has included it in the popular art forms, we have songs and dances about the ghapama, and it is present in drawings and literature. For centuries, every part of our ethnic cuisine in the ancestral homeland and beyond (meaning, in the several Diaspora communities, throughout the centuries: post Armenian Genocide, and even before it, since the forced relocation of the Armenian population by the invading Tatars and Turks in the Caucasus, earlier by Shah Abbas, before it Cilicia, before it Ani, and a long list before that…) has maintained ghapama as one of its delicacies. The widespread fame of this dish traveled with the Diaspora communities to their new villages, towns and cities, many of whom believed that ghapama is the trademark of their own village or town because they discovered new spices and vegetable types that they added to the original ingredients of the dish, thus creating the several versions/recipes that we enjoy today. Traditionally, regardless of the recipe or filling, whether in the homeland or the Diaspora, our ancestors baked ghapama in the Armenian ‘tonir’ or oven.”

 

“Ghapama is offered as a main dish when prepared with meat and or other vegetarian recipes, also as a part of the desert table delicacies. The ingredients may vary, and so may the spices, but what matters is for the tradition to live on especially that (as mentioned above), this dish was served during the feasts including weddings. For example, in Marash, in Western Armenia, it was traditional to serve the groom and his family a ghapama dish baked with meat and grains.”

https://www.iarmenia.org/ghapama/#

**Use any pumpkin or any winter squash with a center cavity large enough to hold 3 or 4 cups of cooked rice (1 1/2 to 2 cups of uncooked rice). Other references:

https://thestuffedgrapeleaf.com/ghapama/

https://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/ghapama

https://www.tasteofbeirut.com/stuffed-pumpkin-ghapama/

https://www.diningindiaspora.com/food/2017/10/23/ghapama

Copyright 2022 @thearmeniankitchen

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