Georgian tarragon pie and cheese boat featured in The Guardian
09 August, 2017
Georgian tarragon pie and cheese boat featured in The Guardian
A well-known British edition The Guardian publishes an extract from Olia Hercules’s new book, Kaukasis: the culinary journey through Georgia, Azerbaijan & beyond.

Olia Hercules is a chef, food writer and regular contributor to Cook.

Her interest was to collect rare food recipes throughout Caucasian countries and as it can be seen from her book, she was totally amazed by Georgian food.

We offer you Olia’s impressions about Georgian dishes and the recipes she gathered
in Georgia:

Near Kazbegi mountain in northeastern Georgia, I saw a viewing platform with a massive mosaic. It was beautiful. What I loved the most was that the animals and people depicted have clearly defined outlines, but within, their forms are made up of mismatched coloured tiles. This is how I feel about culture, and about traditions and recipes. The outlines are there, set in stone, but what’s happening inside is a big puzzle of individual fragments. This is my interpretation, a symbol, a vision of how to cherish tradition while also being open to creating something new.
Aniko’s tarragon pie

This recipe from Aniko, the mother of my friend Nino, was a revelation to me. Aniko had kept it a secret her whole life – she wouldn’t have revealed it under torture! Nino misses her mum, who is now sadly gone, and was unsure about revealing her secret recipe to the people who may read this book. However, when we met at her childhood home to cook this pie, at midday we were starving and had some cheese, salad and bread along with a drop of wine. When I poured the second shot of wine (we couldn’t find bigger glasses), I clumsily overfilled Nino’s glass, spilling it all over the tablecloth and the snow-white cheese. Embarrassed, I apologised, but Nino’s face lit up as, in Georgia, this is a sign that the ancestors who used to live in the house are happy to receive their descendants and guests. It was a gorgeous omen, making us feel like, finally, mystically, we were allowed to share the recipe.

Serves 6–8
For the pastry

100g (3½oz) cold unsalted butter, diced, plus extra for greasing
350g (12oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
100g (3½oz) kefir or natural yoghurt
2 eggs
½ tsp fine salt
Beaten egg yolk, to glaze

For the filling
4 big bunches of tarragon (about 150g/5½oz), leaves picked and finely chopped
6 spring onions, finely chopped
3 hard-boiled eggs, shelled, chopped
1 tsp salt flakes, or to taste

1 For the pastry, rub the cold butter into the flour in a bowl until it resembles breadcrumbs.

2 Add the kefir or yoghurt, eggs and salt, then mix together well. Knead the dough, adding more flour if the pastry is still too wet – you are looking for a soft, but not particularly damp, dough. Wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest and firm in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

3 Meanwhile, mix all the ingredients for the filling together. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Grease a 24cm (9½-in) round shallow cake tin or pie dish.

4 Divide the pastry dough in half. Roll out one half on a lightly floured work surface and use it to line the greased tin or dish. Add the filling and spread it evenly over the base of the pastry case.

5 Roll out the other piece of dough, lay it over the top and pinch the edges together. Brush with the beaten egg yolk to glaze and prick it all over with a fork to allow the steam to escape.

6 Bake the pie for about 20–30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and cooked through.

Mint adjika

This is my favourite paste. It’s so easy to make, keeps for months and is incredibly versatile. People in western Georgia keep a jar of adjika in their fridge to mix through stretchy cheese when making elardji, and it goes well with creamy fresh cheeses, such as in the fruit and dairy toast recipe that follows. Brush a smidgen on to some sourdough toast topped with good mozzarella. Alternatively, stir it through boiled new potatoes.

Makes about 350g

125g (4½oz) spearmint (or ordinary mint), stalks and all
10 green chillies, half deseeded
5 garlic cloves
20g salt

1 Blitz everything together into a paste in a blender or food processor, or bash it lovingly using a pestle and mortar if you want to feel like an authentic Georgian bebia (grandma). This should be used like a seasoning – a sort of moist, flavoured salt – so use sparingly. Store in the fridge for up to 1 month.
Adjaran khachapuri

I got the recipe from Arkadiy Petrosyan, a master acharuli breadmaker from Batumi on the Black Sea coast. He used a fresh Imeretian cheese impossible to source outside Georgia, but that you can make yourself. Yotam Ottolenghi uses a mixture of ricotta, halloumi and feta, which works a treat, while Nigella Lawson favours feta, mozzarella and ricotta, and Felicity Cloake in The A–Z of Eating opts for hard mozzarella and feta. I have tried it with Ogleshield instead of halloumi and its mild dairiness was closer to the original. If you can’t find it, try a 2:1 ratio of edam and cheddar instead.

Makes 6
For the dough

7g (¼oz) fast-action dried yeast
2 tbsp granulated sugar
200ml (⅓ pint) lukewarm water
450g (1lb) organic white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
10g (¼oz) fine salt

For the filling
100g quark or ricotta
250g (9oz) Ogleshield or raclette cheese
250g (9oz) feta cheese, crumbled
6 small eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
10g (¼oz) cold unsalted butter, sliced into 6 slivers

1 To make the dough, combine the yeast with the sugar, water, flour and salt in a bowl. Cover with clingfilm and either leave it in the refrigerator overnight or somewhere in your kitchen for an hour or so, until doubled in size.

2 For the filling, mix the cheeses with the single egg yolk and use a fork to mash well.

3 Preheat the oven to its highest setting and heat a couple of baking sheets – or a pizza stone if you have one.

4 Flour your work surface really well. Cover your hands in flour and scrape the dough on to your work surface. Briefly knead the dough in the flour if it’s too sticky.

5 Divide the dough into 6 pieces (each piece should be about 100g (3½oz). Roll out each piece of dough on a lightly floured work surface into a 18cm (7in) disc. Stretch either side of each disc, then pile 100g (3½oz) of filling in the centre, leaving a 5mm (¼ in) border around the edge.

6 Bring two sides of the dough up to meet in the middle and pinch a seam together to seal, similar to a cornish pasty. Press down with the flat of your hand to flatten it, then flip it over so the seam is face-down. With a sharp knife, make a slash along the middle of the dough and push the sides open to expose the filling. Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling to make six khachapuris.

7 Slide the khachapuris on to the hot baking trays and bake for 10 minutes, or until the sides turn golden.

8 Crack an egg into the centre of each, then bake for a further 2–3 minutes.

9 To eat, melt a piece of butter into each egg yolk, pinch the dough from one end and use it to dip and mix the runny, buttery egg yolk into the filling.
Tarragon and cucumber lemonade

Instead of cola and fizzy orange drinks, we ex-Soviet children grew up drinking a fizzy fluorescent green pop called tarkhun, meaning “tarragon”. It was poisonous-green, very sweet, yet somehow delicious. I do love the addition of cucumbers, like they do in the Pheasant’s Tears restaurant in Signagi, a town in the Kakheti region of eastern Georgia, which makes this summer drink even fresher.

Makes about 3 litres (5¼ pints)
500ml (18fl oz) water
200g (7oz) caster sugar
Finely grated zest and juice of 4 unwaxed lemons
2 bunches of tarragon
1 cucumber, sliced
2 litres (3½ pints) cold sparkling mineral water

1 Put the still water into a saucepan with the sugar and heat over a low heat, stirring often, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Leave to cool completely, then stir in the lemon zest and juice.

2 Blitz the tarragon (reserving a few sprigs) and the cucumber in a blender or food processor (easier and less splashy than using a pestle and mortar, although you can do it that way). Strain the mixture through a fine sieve.

3 Mix the lemony cordial with the tarragon and cucumber juice and dilute it as you would with any cordial – topped up with sparkling or still water. This is not too bad with a dash of gin, too.

You can read full story here.

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