Natalia Golumb shares her recipe for Doymaj, a fresh, juicy and sour salad that makes the most of the season’s finest cherry plums.
Alycha season has officially started in Azerbaijan. Alycha is a green cherry plum and my favorite kind hails from Ordubad. If you’re eating them fresh, the best technique is to take a nibble from one and then add salt to the juicy part of the fruit. Delicious! As soon as the season starts, you’ll find alychas sold in cones of newspaper on every street. If you grew up in Azerbaijan, a taste of these salted cherry plums will take you straight back to childhood.
The locals add alнcha to homemade pickles to add additional sourness. Recently I discovered a delicious pickle specialty in the Goychay region, where they pickle alнcha with caper stems so that the plums absorb their aroma and taste. Only a few years ago, I tried a refreshing alycha salad from the Gabala region that is locked in my memory. It’s called Doymaj, after the word “doymek” which means “to smash”. Alycha, sour cherries and even ripe Cornelian cherries are crushed into chunks, their pits removed, and the flesh is mixed with fresh aromatic herbs.
The smashing was traditionally done with a special round stone that could be found in most households in the region, but in a contemporary kitchen, you can use the bottom of a sturdy glass; this actually works better if you want to keep an eye on the cherries’ texture as you smash.
You will need:
1kg Green cherry plums (choose ones are not too soft)
1 bundle of fresh purple basil
2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon of finely chopped fresh cilantro
White pepper to taste
Remove the leaves of the purple fresh basil and finely chop them, discarding the stems.
Sprinkle the alycha plums with salt and smash them with the bottom of a sturdy glass until the flesh is crushed into chunks and you can remove the pits.
In a bowl, mix the alycha with the fresh aromatic herbs. If you would like the salad to taste more sour, squeeze a lemon into it. Let all the ingredients marinate for 15 minutes until they’re soulmates.
Some variations for this recipe would be to smash Cornelian cherries and mix them with the alycha with cornelian cherries, or to replace the alycha entirely with sour cherries (if you decide to this, omit the cilantro from the recipe and add salt at the end).
Serve doymaj as a stand-alone salad or as an accompaniment to kebab or any other grilled meat dishes. And don’t forget wine – a light and young red or strong white would be fantastic.
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