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Community Kitchen – Armenian

Welcome to our first Community Kitchen. We want to bring you some of the hidden recipes that reside in the kitchens of Ipswich. We have a vibrant multicultural community who have stories and recipes to share. So pour a cup of tea, and enjoy a slice of ethnic delicacy. Then, give it a try.

What do Kim Kardashian, Andre Agassi, Cher, Principal Skinner and Ipswich’s Hedy Keogh have in common? They are all Armenian.

Hedy’s Armenian name is Arathoonian.

Her parents were both Armenian, as were their parents Leo and Nancy, but Hedy’s journey to Ipswich was not so straightforward.

Her parents met in Singapore where Hedy’s father was stationed with the British Army.

When the bombs started falling in the early 40s they boarded one of the last two ships leaving Singapore.

They were headed for London but the sea was a very dangerous place during the Second World War. Their ship, intended for London, docked in India.

The other ship made for London but was bombed, sunk and everyone on board was killed.

“So they were very lucky. They got on the ‘right’ ship,” Hedy said.

Born in Ansansol near Calcutta, India, Hedy lived there until she was 14.

It wasn’t until the family moved to London that she learned to cook.

“She was a brilliant cook. I watched her, she made beautiful curries and rice and lots of different things,” Hedy remembers.

“When you went to the Armenian Church, after the service they always have luncheon and you’d always have cracked wheat. You’d have that cooked with onions and meat in it. Or just the cracked wheat with onions in it.”

“It’s a very versatile dish. So that’s why I liked it,” she said.

“It’s similar to cous cous but it’s stronger, it is a thicker granule. I soak it overnight. They say you can cook it in liquid but it goes stodgy.”

Another favourite she likes to eat with it is Armenian Salad. “It is a salad with aubergine and capsicum and it has a yoghurt dressing with coriander, pistachios and a bit of garlic mixed in it and it’s just layered,” she said.

But be careful with the eggplant.

“I can’t stand aubergines when they are soggy but when they are just nicely cooked and laid out, they are not soggy. I hate soggy things,” she said.

Hedy arrived in Australia settling in Sydney in 1977.

“I married Pat 24 years ago. We came up here for a weekend to see what Queensland was like and we bought the house,” she said.

“It was the worst looking house we saw. They had dogs living in the house the garden was next to nothing. It just had a lovely atmosphere. The bones were there.”

They spent two years renovating it and doing up the garden.

Their house is full of personality and so is Hedy.

She runs dance and exercise classes from the studio out the back and makes all of her own costumes.

She is also Treasurer of the Ipswich Multicultural Projects which is very active in the community, hosting Aladdin’s Bazaar treasure markets, International Café’s and they have regular catch ups every Wednesday, 10am, for coffee at Urban Pantry.

They especially want to welcome new immigrants to the area.

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