Dooymaj, or Dooymash, as we call it in Tabriz, is a food that is enjoyed in small portions as a late afternoon snack or “asraneh.” Dooymaj is made with simple and fresh ingredients: Crispy lavash bread, butter, “torta,” feta cheese, walnuts and herbs. This is a fun and nostalgic ceremonial snack food. This asraneh is served at casual get togethers with a more intimate setting because the prepared mixture is pressed in the palm of the hand and eaten with fingers. The guests are served a plateful of the mixture and they make their own small rolls called “tika,” or “loghmeh.” Small bites of Dooymaj is eaten with sips of sweetened fresh brewed Persian black tea, extra feta cheese, walnuts and herbs, along with even more delicious conversations.
Torta is the product of melting unsalted butter and then caramelizing the milk solids until it has a tan color and nutty flavor. To describe the flavor of torta to someone who has never had it would be: Imagine a mildly nutty cheese flavor.
Traditionally, pure butter fat or “ghee” (roghan heyvani) has been the main cooking oil in Iran since the ancient times. Ghee is made by slow melting kilos of fresh hand-churned butter in late spring. This butter does not come in neatly packaged blocks, but rather in large yellowish chunks in its natural form, shortly after it has been churned by the ranchers. This butter tastes so much better than our fancy paper wrapped ones. The rich aroma that fills the whole house when they are making ghee is incredible!
Usually the butter is purchased in large amounts, melted and stored for use through the coming year. A small container is kept at room temperature for the weekly use and replenished from the larger supply that is stored in a cool and dark place. The torta (caramelized milk solids) is stored in the freezer. When ready to use. it is brought to room temperature then warmed briefly to be used in specialty breads as well as Dooymaj. I made some ghee recently and I used the torta from that in this recipe. I have posted the process on my How To page. It is worth a try if you use a lot of butter in your daily cooking, because it does not burn like butter and it tastes so much better. If you don’t have torta, melted butter works very well for this nostalgic recipe.
I have mentioned before that the main meal in Iran is lunch and it is usually eaten sometime between 12 to 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Then dinner is usually a lighter meal and is eaten around 9 p.m. or even later. “Asraneh” is a small snack that can be a piece of cake, or some type of bread and cheese with fruits, or Dooymaj on special occasions in the days following making “roghan heyvani.” This small snack is usually served with some freshly brewed tea on the side.
I have used whole wheat lavash bread but regular lavash bread will work too. The lavash that they sell in Iran is usually very crisp but the ones that I buy from the Persian/Middle Eastern markets here are pretty soft, so I toast them briefly until they are very light golden brown and crispy.
Crush the bread into a bowl and gradually drizzle some water while mixing it with your fingertips only until the bread sticks together when you press some of it in the palm of your hand. It should not be soggy, and as you add the rest of the ingredients it will get softer.
Chop the fresh dill and basil, coarsely chop walnuts, and crumble some feta cheese
First drizzle the melted butter (and torta if available) and mix it into the moistened crushed breads with your fingertips. Then Add the crumbled feta cheese and chopped walnuts and herbs.
Serve Dooymaj in plates along with extra cheese, walnut halves and fresh herbs. Don’t forget the freshly brewed tea with a side of sugar cubes and enjoy a lively conversation with friends while nibbling on dooymanj and sipping your sweetened hot tea.
- FOR TORTA (please refer to How to Make Ghee on my How To page)
- 1 pound unsalted butter
- FOR DUYMANJ
- 8 ounces whole wheat, or white, lavash bread
- ⅓ cup water
- ¼ cup melted butter, or more to taste
- 2 TBSP torta (if available)
- ⅓ cup finely chopped walnuts
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh herbs (basil, chives, dill…)
- 2 ounces feta cheese crumbled, divided
- Walnut halves
- Sprigs of fresh basil and dill
- Toast the lavash until very dry but not browned. Let it cool, then crush it into a medium bowl.
- Gradually add water to the bread. Depending on the type of bread you may need more or less than ⅓ cup. Keep tossing it with your fingertips until it starts sticking together when you press a handful in the palm of your hand. It should not be soggy.
- Add the melted butter and torta to the bowl and work it into the bread pieces.
- Add the chopped walnuts and herbs and most of the crumbled feta cheese and mix together. Add the remaining feta cheese on top and serve on plates with extra walnut halves, sprigs of herbs and freshly brewed Persian tea!