Recently I received a message out of the blue from a client in Georgia (SE Europe) asking me if I could develop suitable recipes for a local (Georgian) product to be sold in Japan. An intriguing request! But it got me thinking. I love Japanese food. But Georgian cuisine? Well, it’s delightfully diverse.
Nestling between the subtropical Black Sea shores and the snowy crest line of the Caucasus Mountains, Georgia is gourmet country. Tea, citrus, almonds and olives thrive near the mountains. In more temperate eastern areas, grapes and wheat have been cultivated for thousands of years. Berries, nuts, figs and stone fruits are also abundant.
Walnuts are a staple of savoury and sweet dishes. Herbs such as tarragon, coriander, dill, purple and green basil, oregano, mint plus golden marigolds are widely grown in home gardens for fresh herb salads.
There are over 250 varieties of cheese prepared from ewe, goat and cow’s milk. The delicious, rich, trending Khachapuri (cheese and egg bread) is unique. (See (lengthy) recipe in my recipe collection.)
According to my colleague, although traditional recipes will never die, there is a modern twist to local dishes emerging influenced by a buoyant local tourist industry as well as Georgian restaurants popping up in the likes of New York, Paris and Amsterdam.
GEORGIAN GRAPE PUDDING
This is an easy, full-flavoured, not-to-sweet dessert.
4 cups (1 1itre) red grape juice
100g plain flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar
Place the grape juice in a heavy saucepan and bring almost to a simmer. Keep at this temperature for about 2 hours or until it has reduced by half (2 cups).
Combine the flour and sugar in a bowl. Stir about 1/2 a cup of the reduction slowly into the flour until smooth. You may want to mix it with an egg beater. Stir back into the remaining juice over low heat or cook in the microwave, until thick. Ensure there is no raw flour taste. Stir in the balsamic vinegar.
Pour into a serving dish or individual dishes and chill.
Serve with grapes, and walnuts on the side plus seasonal berries. Whipped cream or yoghurt complement the dish. Serves 6.
CHICKEN WITH WALNUT SAUCE
This is a modern take on the classical Georgian chicken dish, Katmis Satsivi. I served this with an unfiltered Georgian wine Pheasant’s Tears from planetwine.co.nz
Chicken: 8 skinned and boned chicken thighs
1/4 cup each: olive oil, lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
Walnut Sauce: 1 1/2 cups toasted walnuts
1 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup chopped coriander
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 each: small onion, seeded chilli
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon each: fenugreek seeds, ground cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
Trim the chicken if required. To make the marinade, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and tarragon. Marinate the chicken — covered— for at least 3 hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Turn occasionally.
To make the Walnut Sauce, place the walnuts and stock in a food processor and mix until very smooth. Add all the remaining ingredients — except the vinegar or lemon juice. Bring to a simmer over low heat or in the microwave. Cook for 4-5 minutes. Add extrra stock or water if too thick. Add the white balsamic vinegar or lemon juice. Prepare ahead and reheat if preferred.
Heat a large non-stick frying pan on high. Pan-fry the chicken in batches until golden on both sides. Place in a large roasting pan. This can be done up to 2 hours before final cooking. Keep chilled.
Preheat the oven to 190°C. Bake the chicken for 5 minutes each side, until cooked.
Great served on well-seasoned polenta. Top with the warmed sauce and extra coriander leaves or microgreens. Serves 4-6.
SPICY MEATBALLS — WITH ADJIKA
A mixture of pork and beef mince is optional.
1 thick slice white bread, crusts removed
1/4 cup milk
500g minced pork
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon ground sumac
pinch each: ground coriander, cayenne pepper
walnut or canola oil for frying
Place the bread in the milk and soak for 5 minutes.
Combine the pork, onion, garlic and spices in a bowl. Mix well. Add the bread and milk and mix again. Roll into golf-ball sized meatballs.
Pan-fry the meatballs for about 7 minutes in the oil in a non-stick frying pan, until cooked. Serve topped with Adjika. (Recipe follows.) Serves 4.
This spicy sauce is excellent with meatballs, chicken and vegetables. Store in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
4 each: red chillies, tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 cup each: coriander, basil leaves, dill (or fennel fronds)
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
sugar and salt to taste
To make the sauce, place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until a chunky paste is formed. Makes about 1 cup.