Taste Georgia’s Vibrant and Colorful Cuisine
Georgia, nestled between the Caucasus Mountains and the Black Sea, is home to colorful and vibrant cuisine as well as the world’s oldest wine-making areas. Carla Capalbo, award-winning food and wine writer and photographer, has traveled across Georgia collecting recipes and gathering stories from traditional food and wine producers in this stunning but little-known country.
Capalbo’s “Tasting Georgia” (published by Interlink Books, an imprint of Interlink Publishing Group, Inc.) is a beautifully illustrated cookbook and cultural guide that features 70 authentic has almost 400 original photographs. Enjoy these recipes from the book.
The Gurians are famous for the hazelnuts that now cover a large part of the region, having replaced both vineyards and tea bushes as a cash crop. Hazelnuts may be less prized than walnuts in most of the country, but they provide interesting variations on some of the best-loved recipes.
Think of this rather dry paste as a concentrate to be diluted before use with whatever is best suited to the dish: water for a light salad or oil for painting onto a roasting chicken. Taste a few of your hazelnuts before making the paste to be sure they are fresh and not bitter.
To make a tasty but light dressing for the cucumber and tomato salad that appears on every Georgian supra table, stir 2 tablespoons of water into 2 tablespoons of paste in a small bowl, mix well and pour over the salad. That will be sufﬁcient for 2 to 3 people; increase the quantities for a bigger salad.
Makes 1 cup
4 oz / 1 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
fresh chili, to taste
Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until a thick paste has been obtained. (Note: Whole hazelnuts get stuck easily on the blades of the machine, so it’s best to chop them coarsely before you process them.)
Store the paste in the refrigerator covered closely with plastic wrap to stop oxidation. It will keep for a week or more. You can also freeze it in small batches for later use.
Noodle and yogurt soup
This fascinating dish is made using the humblest ingredients but thanks to some culinary imagination the result is an unusual soup with two textures. A simple ﬂour and water dough similar to pasta is fashioned into two shapes and each is cooked differently before being brought together in a yogurt broth. This dish should be eaten hot. It will add a talking point to a supra spread. They say it will also cure a hangover.
Serves 4 to 6
8 oz / 1½ cups plain / all-purpose flour
4 fl oz / ½ cup water
2 oz / 4 tablespoons clarified butter
½ cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Mix the flour and water together to form a fairly stiff dough. Knead it on a lightly floured surface for 3 to 4 minutes or until the dough is smooth and doesn’t stick. Divide the dough ball into two pieces. Cover one in plastic wrap while you work the other.
Roll the first piece of dough into a circle about 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle it with flour. Cut it into four strips, horizontally. Stack the strips and slice them crosswise to produce short noodles about 1/2-inch wide. Sprinkle with flour as you break them into individual noodles.
Roll the remaining dough into several ropes the thickness of fat pencils. Cut each rope crosswise to form small chunky pieces about 1/2-inch long. Sprinkle them with a little flour.
Melt the butter in a medium frying pan over low to medium heat and, when it’s bubbling, add the chunky dough pieces to the butter, tossing them until they’re golden brown. This will take about 15 minutes. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the onions to the pan with the dough chunks and cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent, 5 to 6 minutes.
When the water boils, stir in 1½ teaspoons salt and the noodles. When the water comes back to the boil and the noodles come to the surface, stir in the yogurt and cook for a couple of minutes more. Stir in the onion mixture, taste for seasoning and serve.
Grilled Chicken With Garlic Sauce
Here’s one for garlic lovers. This is an easy and delicious version of the popular Georgian dish in which chicken is baked and then topped with chopped garlic in milk. Here the chicken is marinated with garlic for a few hours before being grilled and then served with a garlic and sour cream-based sauce. It’s particularly good when fresh, young garlic is in season, delivering all the garlic’s fragrance without the cloying pungency of old garlic. It’s easy to double for more people, just use whichever chicken pieces you like best.
1 lb 10 oz chicken thighs or legs, with skin on
For the marinade:
5 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons groundnut or sunflower oil
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
For the sauce:
½ cup chicken broth or stock
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup sour cream
In a deep bowl, toss the chicken pieces with the marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
Preheat your grill or broiler. Grill or broil the chicken until the skin is golden and the meat is cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes per side. Make sure you put a piece of foil or a tray under the chicken to catch the cooking juices (discard any uncooked, leftover marinade that may have raw chicken juices in it).
Remove the chicken to a warm serving dish.
Add the chicken broth or stock to the chicken cooking juices and stir to loosen them from the pan. Pour them into a small saucepan through a strainer. Stir in the chopped fresh garlic, salt and sour cream and heat gently to simmering point. Taste for seasoning. Spoon some of the sauce over the chicken and serve the rest in a small bowl on the side.
Find more of Sheilah’s culinary treats at www.cookingwithsheilah.com.