I’m a nostalgic person. I take a lot of pictures so I’ll always remember happy memories. I’ve kept several of my favorite childhood toys. There are a lot of ways to remember important moments and people, whether it’s with things, photographs, or in today’s case with food.
My aunt Roza passed away in September. Like any good Armenian woman, she loved to cook and feed people. She was famous for her rice pilaf, her poohree macaron, her baklava, and her tas kebab. She was also an avid fan of this blog, and loved to call me up to ask me about recipes I had tried out and shared, or to ask my advice on dishes she wanted to try making herself.
We would always task my aunt with making her tas kebab for family gatherings and special occasions. She made the best tas kebab, and we left it to her knowing it would never disappoint. Sadly I was not able to make it with her to see her methods or learn her secrets. I knew the list of ingredients she used and the general method of prep, and decided to recreate her tas kebab in her honor and write down the recipe so we will always be able to make it.
It took a couple attempts to get it just right. The recipe is incredibly simple, but the broth is very flavorful, and the beef is so tender it falls apart. This tas kebab is hearty, comforting, and deliciously spiced with whole peppercorns, allspice berries, and ground cinnamon. It’s best served over a mound of rice pilaf so the broth can soak into the rice.
Tasting this tas kebab brings back so many memories of my aunt. It tastes just like hers, and I’m sure she would be so proud that I was able to recreate this beloved dish.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again, please do yourselves a favor and write down any family recipes shared by parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, whoever in your family is responsible for your favorite flavors of nostalgia. Take the time to measure the ingredients, write them down, retest them, and save them. I’m glad I was able to recreate this tas kebab, but if the dish had been more complicated I doubt I would have ever gotten it to match hers, and that would have been a travesty.
Although this is my comfort dish and not necessarily yours, I encourage you to try your hand at making this tas kebab in honor of my aunt. She lived her life for those she loved, and feeding them around the clock was always part of the deal. Even though she’s gone, I’m happy I can now feed my stomach AND my soul with this tas kebab recipe.
Roza’s Tas Kebab
Serves 6 to 8
3 pounds beef chuck, cubed into 2-inch pieces
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon allspice berries
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Rice pilaf, for serving
Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Set aside.
Rinse the beef with cold water. Drain and add to a large pot. Cover with cold water by about 2 inches. Heat over medium-high heat, skimming impurities off the surface. When the water starts to boil, remove from the heat, drain into a colander and rinse the beef with cold water.
Wipe the pot clean, add the beef back along with 6 cups of boiled water, the butter, tomato paste, and all of the seasonings. Return to high heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer covered for about 2 1/2 hours or until the beef is easily cut with the side of a spoon (my aunt would cook it until the meat was actually falling apart so aim for significantly longer than fork tender).
Tas kebab is best when made a day or more ahead of time and reheated prior to serving, as this allows the flavors to develop. Serve the tas kebab spooned over rice pilaf in wide serving bowls or plates.
*Note* You will have to pick out the peppercorns and allspice berries as you eat. This is the way my aunt always made this dish so that is how I wrote the recipe, however it wouldn’t be a bad idea to perhaps tie those spices into a cheesecloth and cook the tas kebab with the spice bundle for easy removal later instead of loose spices.