Assignment 73: Georgia

GA map

Location: Western Asia, between Russia and Turkey
Population: 3.7 million
Capital: Tblisi
Geography: Mountainous, with areas of fertile valleys
Language: Georgian, Abkhazian
Signature flavours: Dairy, lamb, beef, tarragon, egg, nuts, shallot, plum

The Menu

Georgia’s culinary tradition tells the story of its geography: nestled at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. This unique location means Georgia and its neighbours have built their dinner tables with ingredients from east and west, north and south, and result in an experience rich in flavour diversity. I sourced my recipes from two wonderful cookbooks: Tasting Georgia by Carla Capalbo and Kaukasis by Olia Hercules.

GA khacha

Adjaran Khachapuri: Bread stuffed with cheese and egg, eaten by tearing chunks off and dipping into the melty middle. Every Georgian family has its own recipe. This one comes from the Adjara region.

Prep and cooking time: 2 hours
Difficulty: 3/5

GA quince

Stuffed Quince: Roasted quince stuffed with spiced lamb (ground veggie beef in our case) and caramelized shallots.

Prep and cooking time: 60 min
Difficulty: 2/5

GA herbed

Herbed Mushrooms: Oyster, white, and cremini mushrooms sautéed with green onions and hot chillis and spiced with tarragon, sage, and mint — some of which came out of our little herb garden.

Prep and cooking time: 20 min
Difficulty: 2/5

GA cookies

Qata: Buttery cookies with a crisp outside and a sweet, crunchy inside.

Prep and cooking time: 90 min
Difficulty: 4/5

The Shopping List

Most of my ingredients were found at our local FreshCo, but the quinces gave me a bit of trouble. Being out of season, they were nowhere to be found, but my research suggested that Chinese pears, or su pears, could be used as an acceptable alternative. I found them at a Middle Eastern grocery. St Lawrence Market provided the cheeses for the khachapuri.

GA su
Chinese pears (or su pears)

The Meal

I had a feeling that Georgian food was going to be really tasty, and I was not wrong. As usual, I had to remind myself to take pictures as I cooked, because I get caught up in the process and go into a kind of trance when I cook. This particular collection of dishes had nice timing, so I was never rushing too much to keep things moving along.

The khachapuri, Georgia’s national dish, was the pride of my table. They were fun to make, turned out just like in the cookbook, and tasted amazing. Cheesy, oily, and of course bread-y, they are packed with calories, perfect for taking along to a hard day of work. I made one each for Eric and I, but when I saw how big they were, I decided one would be more than enough for us both. Given how much we liked it, khachapuri will definitely be a repeat dish in our kitchen — and maybe even a future WSW showcase feature.

GA cheese
From left to right: Raclette, feta, and ricotta cheeses

I would love to make the stuffed quince again with actual quinces, just to see how different the dish would turn out from my su pear creation, which was very good in itself (and actually was even better when we ate the leftovers a day later). The su pears have a flavour between an apple and a pear, with firm, mildly sweet flesh. The combination of the pear with the hearty “lamb” and shallots was delicious.

Mushrooms are a staple of Georgian cuisine, and I came across a number of recipes that included oyster mushrooms specifically. My herbed mushrooms had a pretty good heat to them from the chilli pepper, with strong minty and tarragon-y flavours coming through.

GA mushrooms

The qata were very difficult to make, and were quite unusual when they were finished. The dough is rolled into a sausage around the filling, and then sliced to create the cookies. The result is a bread-y cookie with a sweet, nutty centre. The dough was very hard to work with, and the crumbly filling did not want to stay inside the cut cookies. I did my best, and the finished product had a nice flavour, especially when paired with sweet yoghurt for dipping.

Some Wooden Spoon Wanderer assignments allow us to explore flavours we’ve enjoyed for years at home or at restaurants, and others, like this one, allow us to explore a culinary niche we’ve never encountered. Both experiences build our cooking experience, expand our recipe repertoire, and make our world a little bigger.

GA herbs
The WSW herb garden

Links

https://www.tastinggeorgia.com

Disclaimer: I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a passionate cook with a curiosity for flavours I’ve never tried. For great recipes from gifted local cooks, follow the links above.

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