#39 Date selected: 23/7/16 Date completed: 30/7/16
Country selected: Georgia
Dining Selection: Cooked Own
What was on the menu/recipes:
- Georgian Cheese and Egg Bread (Acharuli Khachapuri)
- Oyster Mushrooms with Rachuli Bacon
My boyfriend, Shane became very excited when I told him that I was cooking something from Georgia this challenge. That is until he worked out that it was a country and not a US state. He, like a lot of other people I’ve spoken to, didn’t realise there was a country called Georgia.
Well it turns out there is and it’s located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia – bordered by Russia, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and the Black Sea. It has a vast history with its roots leading back to the Mongols, the Ottoman Empire and the successive dynasties of Iran.
Georgia gained brief independence after the Russian Revolution in 1917, only to be invaded by Soviet Russia in 1921. It was able to restore independence again in 1991 but then suffered from civil and economic crisis for most of the 1990s. This lasted until the Rose Revolution, a pro-Western peaceful change of power in Georgia brought about by widespread protests over the disputed parliamentary elections and marked the end of the Soviet era of leadership in the county. The Revolution was named from the climactic moment when demonstrators stormed a parliament session holding red roses. This in turn led to the brief Russia-Georgia war.
The culture in Georgia is one evolved over thousands of years. It’s known for its rich folklore, unique traditional music, theatre, cinema and art. In fact, the Georgian folk song “Chakrulo” was one of 27 musical compositions chosen to be included on a Voyager Golden Record that was sent into space on Voyager 2 in 1977.
In addition to traditional Georgian cuisine which has evolved throughout he centuries, adapting traditions in each era, and the food of other countries have been introduced into the country by immigrants from Russia, Greece and recently China. This challenge however, I have gone for some traditional winter-fare.
The first dish I decided upon was Georgian Chees and Egg Bread (Acharuli Khachapuri) which is essentially the most delicious heart attack you may ever encounter. It’s essentially a boat made from bread containing a bath of melted cheese and a runny egg perched on top. The idea is that you break off the crust and dunk it in the cheese and egg like you would a dip.
It’s incredibly filling, ridiculously fattening and surprisingly easy to make. You simply make a soft yeast-based dough. This is then rolled into circles. A mixture of Muenster and feta cheese is spread over the top before the ends are twisted and a boat shaped formed from the dough. The rest of the cheese is then packed into the cavity and everything is baked on high head for about 15 mins. An egg is cracked on top of each boat and it is returned to the oven for a few minutes to partially cook. If that wasn’t enough fat for you, you’re also encouraged to add a couple of tablespoons of butter on top before serving hot.
This dish is delicious. I ended up using some Provolone as I was unable to find Muenster cheese and this gave everything a nice bitey taste. The egg adds an extra hit of richness to the dish and it’s like the best comfort food you can find times ten. You can see the fat from the cheese bubbling out from the cracks of the bread once you take it out of the oven.
This is a dish that you need to eat straight out of the oven though. Don’t leave it as the cheese will set and you’ll lose the charm of it. I can see this going beautifully with a hearty vegetable soup or something. So yum!
The second dish I decided upon was oyster mushrooms with rachuli bacon. I love oyster mushrooms and I’m always keen to look for some different types of vegetable side dishes. Now I have to point out that rachuli bacon is in short supply here in Australia so I ended up just using the regular kind. It’s difficult to compare when I’ve never tried the original but this dish was yummy none-the-less.
It’s simply a mix of ingredients that also includes onion, chilli, basil, coriander, bay leaves and a whole lot of garlic. The mushrooms are actually boiled in salt for 45 mins to begin with but I found this helped them retain their shape when they were eventually added to the rest of the ingredients. Everything is basically fried off and mixed together like a stir-fry before being served hot.
This is a strong mix of flavours, smoky, fragrant and spicy. The chilli gives everything a big kick (you might want to cut down on the amount added if you’re sensitive to that kind of thing). It’s quite a heavy dish but the herbs do help freshen up the flavour somewhat.
It went well with the bread dish but I think it would be even nicer with a plain cut of meat – maybe steak or some chicken, with some simple boiled potatoes. It would even go quite nicely with eggs and toast as a breakfast dish. Either way, surprising and delicious!
And with Georgia under our belts, it’s time to sail onto our next challenge…..