My Citizens! Know deep within your unquestioning soul that the Hetman of Happiness – YOUR TFD! – has a deep and pure love that abides undimmed across time and space for all things bready. Add in some delicious herbs and you suddenly have these delicious flatbreads, enjoyed throughout the Caucasus region and even deeper into the Silk Road countries – this gutap recipe is but one example. Today, I wish to share a recipe with the oddball name of ‘zhingyalov hats’ from the great country of Armenia! On top of it, you are scoring a double today since you will also learn how to make the legendary Armenian lavash bread!
Zhingyalov hats (Armenian: Ժենգյալով հաց, also zhengyalav hatz, zhangyalov hats) is a type of flatbread stuffed with finely diced herbs and green vegetables. It is a traditional dish of Armenians from Artsakh and Syunik – and despite all my best efforts, I have been unable to determine the origin of their unusual name!
To prepare them, unleavened dough is rolled out until it becomes paper-thin, then it is filled with a stuffing that consists of 10 to 20 types of diced and oiled wild and cultivated herbs. One of the most important steps in preparing a good zhingyalov hats is the greens’ composition. Tasteless leaf vegetables and herbs with less pronounced taste make up the base of the stuffing: examples include lettuce, spinach, atriplex, beet greens, chickweed, shepherd’s-purse, viola leaves and suchlike plants.
Herbs with distinctive tastes (chervil, urtica, allium), sour (rumex) or spicy (laserpitium) ones are needed in smaller quantities; bitter-tasting greens as taraxacum should be sparse. After stuffing, zhingyalov hats are fried for around 10 minutes on a special griddle called “saj” or “sajin” (Armenian: սաջին), or in a tandoor for a couple of minutes.
The finished dish is consumed with beer, doogh, or wine. Zhingyalov hats are especially popular during the Armenian Great Lent, due to their vegetarian nature. My recipe/variation is based on a recipe preferred in the Karabakh region in Armenia. It is not another meal or another traditional flatbread recipe with leafy vegetables. Zhingyalov hats are a symbol, the main purpose of its preparation is to unite once again to make a family meal together, to talk about all pressing matters, to exchange news.
As noted in an article in The Smithsonian magazine:
As in many cultures of the Caucasus and Middle East, bread and wheat are important elements of Armenian lifecycle events and festivals. Families offer bread and salt to their houseguests to welcome them. Hosts of births and weddings serve or display wheat kernels and special stews and breads. A new bride has a piece of lavash placed on her shoulders, signifying luck, wealth, and the new life she will bring into the family.
To break bread with someone is to share a common experience, and to experience Armenia you have to witness the baking and enjoy the simple pleasures of lavash. Many Armenian words and expressions derive from the simple, yet significant, act of breaking bread. For instance, the word for a gathering or party, utel-khmel, literally translates to “eat-drink.” The word for friend, enker, means “eating together.” Foods create and mark relationships and identity—wife and husband, family, community, nation.
For the sourdough version of lavash that Rima and her friends prepare back in Rind, each batch is produced from a fermented remnant of the previous batch called ttkhmor. This yeasty starter lends lavash a slightly tart flavor and a charred, bubbly appearance.
The ttkhmor, the fuel used to feed the fire, and the methods of the baker all lend unique flavors to each batch. Each piece represents a present-day connection to the past; without the remnant from the previous baking, today’s lavash would not taste quite the same.
I strongly prefer the type of lavash bread made with a rye sourdough starter, known in Armenian as թթխմոր/ttkhmoras, as it conveys the true essence of the bread. My favorite recipe for rye starter is from the legendary Stanley Ginsberg of The Rye Baker blog – you can find the instructions to make it here. To properly close the Zhingyalov hats, please follow the directions in this video for the right technique.
My version of the classic recipe calls for 17 different ingredients for the stuffing, including sheep’s milk feta (found in some Hat recipes), garlic (not found in any) and pomegranate seeds (found in 1 recipe to help ensure the proper sourness). If you can’t find all my herb recommendations, never fear – just use others as you see fit – there is no canonical recipe for this dish. Just remember to be sparing on the tarragon in particular and strong-tasting greens in general, as they can easily take over the entire dish from a flavor standpoint.
Citizens, this is a magnificent bread indeed, and one that is filled with all things healthful – I hope you see fit to try its unmatched savor at once and with TFD Nation enthusiasm!
Battle on – the Generalissimo
The Hirshon Armenian ‘Zhingyalov Hats’ Herb-Stuffed Flatbread – Ժենգյալով հաց
- Total Time: 0 hours
- For the dough:
- 1/2 cup whole milk kefir at room temperature
- 1/2 Tbsp. rye sourdough starter
- 1/2 cup spelt flour (you can use regular flour if you so prefer)
- 1/2 cup A/P flour
- 1/4 tsp. sea salt
- For the stuffing:
- 1 bunch parsley
- 1 bunch spinach
- 1/2 bunch rainbow chard, tough stems and leaf ribs removed
- 1 bunch basil
- 1 bunch sorrel
- 1/2 bunch cilantro
- 6 sprigs tarragon
- 8 sprigs mint
- 8 scallions
- 1 handful arugula
- 1 handful sweet pea shoots
- 1/2 handful radish leaves
- 1 handful chervil
- 1 large handful dill
- 2 small handfuls or to taste pomegranate seeds
- 1/2 lb. sheep’s milk feta combined with 1-2 cloves minced garlic (TFD change, original recipe did not call for garlic)
- 3 Tbsp. sunflower oil or other neutral oil
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 2 tsp. sweet paprika
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- For brushing cooked breads:
- 3 Tbsp. melted butter
- For the lavash bread:
- Whisk together kefir and sourdough starter.
- Add sifted spelt and regular flours and salt.
- Next, knead by hand (or in stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment) until the dough becomes nice and pliable and absorbs all the dry bits.
- Cover, then leave in the warmest part of your home for 3 to 4 hours. The goal is not to sour or raise the dough, but to condition, soften, and strengthen it.
- Sprinkle the dough with flour and give it a couple of hand kneads.
- Then transfer to a well-floured work surface.
- For the stuffing:
- Wash, dry, and chop finely all leafy vegetables and herbs. Crumble feta and mix it with greens, oil and spices. Portion the stuffing by making 4″ diameter balls or big enough so you have 6 balls of equal size.
- Preheat a large cast iron skillet.
- Divide the dough into 6 pieces. Cover the pieces you are not using, to prevent drying.
- Roll each piece out to ⅛” thick circles.
- Dust your working surface with some flour. Shape the dough into a cylinder ~2″ diameter.
- Divide it into 6 equal portions and flatten each portion.
- Using a rolling pin, make each portion twice as large in diameter and that each portion is 1/5″ (3-4mm) thin. Place stuffing in the center, and pinch the edges together to secure it (follow the video instructions in the text above). Make sure there are no air pockets between the dough and the stuffing. Flatten the flatbread with your fingers and roll it thinner. You will see the stuffing through a thin layer of the dough.
- Preheat a dry cast-iron frying pan or a heavy-bottomed non-stick. Have a stick of butter handy. Cook for about 1-2 minutes on each side.
- Adjust heat as needed. It will take some practice to find out the best setting for you. You want the breads to have dark spots. If the spots don’t appear, the skillet is not hot enough. That would make breads too brittle.
- Lightly brush the top of cooked flatbread with butter right after cooking. Cool the hats between 2 towels to prevent moisture from escaping.
- Prep Time: 0 hours
- Cook Time: 0 hours
- Category: Recipes
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OMG, this looks so yummy and so healthy.
Thank you, Citizen Gaya – it is indeed both! 🙂