Featured country of the month: Georgia

Georgia (the country, not the state) is famous for it's mountains, churches and perhaps most of all - wine. Allegedly, wine actually originates in Georgia and so it is with good reason that it earns this fame. Whilst I've been lucky enough to sample the wine, I have never tried any Georgian food before so this felt like an interesting challenge. I'll be honest though - the main reason I picked Georgia this month is because I've been dying to make the cheese boat and have not had a valid excuse until now.



Khachapuri

About Khachapuri or ‘Georgian Cheese Bread’ is Georgia’s national dish. Khachapuri can come in different forms but I opted for the Adjaruli Khachapuri which is the boat-shaped version. It is essentially a cheesy bread, similar to pizza - topped with an egg and butter. The correct way to eat khachapuri is to mix the fillings and then dip the crust in. I followed this recipe here, which made two smallish boats - perfect for four people. What happened?

It is very difficult to make a 100% authentic Khachapuri outside of Georgia, as the cheese used is not licensed for export to many countries. The most similar substitutes readily available are feta and mozzarella. It was really quite simple to make - I started off by making the dough and leaving it to rise - it was then split into two and left for a second prove. When I was reading the instructions, I had no idea how it was going to turn into the cheese boat I was expecting but it really was not difficult at all to shape - I just followed the instructions step by step and was very pleased with the results.

Did you like it? What is there not to like about to like about cheese and bread? Obviously it was amazing. It was also very simple to make and so I will definitely be making it again.

Marks out of 10: 10/10


Khinkali​

About Khinkali or ‘Georgian Soup Dumplings’ are very similar to Chinese Soup Dumplings but are much larger. Khinkali is finger food and should be eaten in a specific way - you pick up the dumpling by the ‘topknot’; where the dough is joined on the top, and take a bite from the side of the dumpling. You drink the soup out of the dumpling first and then bite in to eat the rest of the filling. The doughy ‘topknot’ is generally discarded and not eaten. I followed this recipe. What happened? These were also pleasantly easy to make. I opted for the meat version which contains beef and pork but a vegetarian mushroom filling is also very commonplace. The dough mixture is rolled out into small circles (I use the term ‘circle’ very loosely here), and a tablespoon of the meat mixture is placed in the centre. One side of the dough is picked up and pleated onto itself, this is one the whole way around the filling and then the ‘pursed’ dough is stuck together at the top - it’s easiest to watch a youtube video on how to do this properly. The more pleats you can make in the dumpling - the better. The dumplings are then boiled for 15 minutes before plating up and serving with sprinkling of black pepper. I was happy with the results but I think on a second attempt I would have attempted more pleats and a larger topknot to pick up the dumplings. ​ Did you like it? I did .I personally don’t like black pepper and so skipped the seasoning on the first dumpling which made it slightly bland. I lightly salted the second one which was a vast improvement. I would definitely make these again.

Marks out of 10: 8/10


Lobio

About Lobio is technically a soup but in actuality resembles more of a stew. It is primarily made of kidney beans and is suitable for vegans. It is typically served in a clay pot and makes use of one of the key ingredients in Georgian cooking - walnuts. The walnuts are ground up and utilised in the soup in order to add richness. I used this recipe. ​ What happened? The soup took the longest to make of the three recipes as the kidney beans require soaking the night before. The soup can be made from tinned beans but it is best to use dried if possible. I was missing one key spice - blue fenugreek and used just plain fenugreek instead. Having never tasted Lobio before, it is difficult to say what effect this will have had. Did you like it? Yes, I did like it but I fear it may have been overshadowed as I decided to serve it at the same time as the Khachapuri. I probably won’t make it again as I did find it a bit ‘samey’ after a few mouthfuls. I will definitely put this down to my cooking though and the jury will remain out on this one until I can taste it in Georgia.

Marks out of 10: 6/10

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