What's one to do when one has a bottle of Georgian wine on hand? Make a Georgian meal to go with, is what!
Friends with adventurous palates were invited to sample this fine Caucasian cuisine, prepared by yours truly. The cooking experience was fairly straightforward. One of the best things about cooking Georgian food is that one can do so much with readily-available components. Too often have I taken it upon myself to make a meal of a particular non-mainstream cuisine, and end up hopping from market to market for hours to find a specific ingredient.
For this meal, I decided to make a starter of a Georgian staple called khachapuri. It's a bit like the manakish we get here. It's basically a type of cheese bread. To start, the dough is prepared by mixing flour, salt, sugar and baking soda with buttermilk.
While it rests, the filling of shredded mozzarella cheese, egg, crushed garlic and finely chopped cilantro is prepared.
The rested dough is made into balls and flattened out into thin discs upon which a dollop of mixed filling is placed.
Then the edges are folded in over the filling, and the result is flattened again.
Fried in shallow oil until golden brown, the result is a delicious khachapuri.
Next is the Georgian salad/appetizer called pkhali. For this, beetroot is boiled and skinned, then shredded.
Walnuts are lightly crushed and roasted.
These are added to the shredded beetroot, along with finely chopped garlic and cilantro. Greek yogurt is added to dress and bind.
Finally, lime juice and salt are added to taste, to produce a delicious salad complement of pkhali.
For the vegetable dish, I chose to make ajapsandali. Cubed potato is parboiled, then layered in a deep pot with cubed eggplant, diced onion and chopped tomato with some tomato juice.
This is covered with chopped bell pepper and drizzled with oil, and then covered and simmered until the vegetables start to soften.
Then chopped cilantro and parsley are added, along with salt, pepper and paprika to taste.
Once the eggplant gets mushy, the ajapsandali is removed from the heat, and may be served.
The rice dish is plov, which is a sweetish sort of Georgian pilaf. For this, grated carrot, minced onion and minced garlic are briefly stir-fried in butter.
Then slivered almond, orange zest, raisins, saffron and turmeric are added, and the mixture is stirred over heat a while longer.
Finally, rice is stirred in, boiling chicken stock is added, and the pot is set to boil briefly.
After adding salt and pepper, the plov is allowed to simmer until all the stock is absorbed, and served.
The preparation of the chicken dish chakhokhbili begins with browning of chicken breast cubes with chopped onion, which is then cooked at length with chopped tomato.
Minced garlic, mixed fresh herbs, bay leaves, crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper are added.
The mixture is simmered until most of the liquid evaporates, and the chakhokhbili is ready for serving.
For the dessert of kada, pastry dough is prepared by making a dough of water, salt and flour, and repeating a process of rolling, spreading butter, folding and chilling.
The filling is prepared by roasting some flour, mixing it with melted butter, and stirring in sugar.
The filling is spread onto the pastry dough, which is rolled up and sealed with cold water.
It can be coiled into a tin and baked, but I chose the unorthodox method of slicing the roll into coins and baking them individually.
The kada is ready after brushing with egg yolk and baking at about 180C until it becomes a golden brown and the filling melts into delicious gooey-ness.