The Eurasian cuisine has been mooted as THE cuisine of 2019 by a San Franciscan hospitality trend consultancy, and it’s largely down to the Instagram popularity of one regional dish, khachapuri; an impressive bread boat filled with cheese and runny egg. What’s not to love?! But is this a one time phenomenon or has it sparked our interest in the mountainous country sandwiched between Europe and Asia?
It is Georgia’s location at the midpoint of the ancient East–West trade routes, that means that Georgians were seemingly able to hand pick the best of what the Turks, Greeks, Mongols and Arabs were cooking along the Silk Road. The influence from Turkish cooking, Russian dishes and Persian flavours, combined with one of the oldest Jewish populations in the world have resulted in an interesting range of dishes which make use of the country’s own organic produce, and which appeal to us as modern day foodies.
Perhaps surprisingly, walnuts are prominent in Georgian cooking. They are essential in popular dishes such as chicken bazhe and vegetable pkhali (chopped salads) but in a pulverized form it’s often used like the French use butter: whisked into soups and sauces to add richness and body, and when chopped and candied in honey it’s often seen as a simple dessert called gozinaki.
The Georgian table is a full one as their people are said to be very hospitable and love to treat guests to feasts, known as ‘supra’, which often last for hours. Georgia is one of the countries where wine was first produced and it features heavily in their meals, along with many cold and hot starters such as pkhali (chopped vegetables with walnuts and herbs shaped into balls and often spread onto freshly baked slipper shaped loaves), plates of herbs (more like salad leaves in Georgian meals – purple basil and tarragon being very popular and seen as incredible for health) and cheese, clay pot cooked dishes and stews, plus breads and pickles (such as Ajika – a fiery condiment that we’re told is very addictive but are yet to try!). The provenance and health attributes of the ingredients are critical to the Georgians, which is hugely in keeping with the trends we see on our High Streets and at our tables at home.
Unfortunately, the interest in Georgian cuisine seems to have failed to venture outside of London so far, although there are now a number of highly acclaimed restaurants including Iberia, The Georgian, Little Georgia Café and Mimino to name but a few. We’re looking forward to seeing more options across the country over 2019/20!