Homemade sourdough is so April. Try your hand at home-cured meat!

Photo: Charles Haynes (CC BY-SA 2.0)

We’ve all been spending a lot more time in the kitchen over the past couple of months, some of us more successfully than others. But if you’re feeling ambitious, aren’t afraid of power-packed spice blends, and have a place to hang raw meat in your home for a few days, consider upping your Covid-19 culinary game with an Armenian appetizer that’ll make you weak in the knees.

For the uninitiated, basturma is a salt and spice-cured tenderloin encased in a deep red crust of paprika, fenugreek, allspice, black pepper, cumin, cayenne and lots of fresh garlic. Some call it Armenian salami. It’s not very pretty, but what dried meat is really, and you’re unlikely to find a more addictive match when placed alongside olives, Armenian string cheese, and lavash.

The sumptuous new book, Lavash, by food writer Kate Leahy (of Burma Superstar fame), chef and food stylist Ara Zada, and photographer John Lee finally gives Armenian food the culinary and cultural fetishization it so rightly deserves, and demystifies the process of transforming fresh beef into razor-thin, almost translucent slices of zesty piquant basturma.

The book’s central focus, lavash, is only a jumping off point for the dozens of other recipes—while somewhat arcane, many are also surprisingly simple—all exquisitely photographed and accompanied by thoughtful and intriguing histories and editorial.

Heghineh Cooking Show demonstrates the basturma-curing process in a how-to vid (and I do love her Russian-Armenian accent). Videos by the Lavash authors (including a how-to for lavash) can be found here.

Once you've mastered basturma, try your hand at jingalov hats.