Recommendations of gastronomic expert Dali Tsatava
Autumn is the time of year to consume orange and yellow products. This season is not for products rich in carbohydrates, like pastry and sweets. Also, it is not desirable to eat marinade, pickled and fatty products and the main accent is made on the diversity of fruits, vegetables and berries.
The most preferable autumn menu should consist of melon, vegetables and fruits, both in main dishes and desserts.
Eggplant is still an active aperitif of the autumn, but instead of nuts, it is better to season it with garlic, vinegar, pomegranate juice and dress it with lots of greens and gem-like pomegranate seeds.
You should also make sure to try beet seasoned with fresh coriander and cornel juice or Tkemali (the Georgian sour plum sauce made of cherry plums) and salad of radish, lettuce leaves and assorted cabbage with lemon juice and oil, which can be dressed with grated Guda cheese or with other varieties of Georgian cheese.
It is recommended to eat Chakapuli (Georgain stew made from lamb chops or veal, onions, tarragon leaves, cherry plums or Tkemali, dry white wine, mixed fresh herbs, garlic and salt) but chose veal rather than lamb, as it is too fatty. Another hit of the season is Chikhirtma (delicious chicken soup) or Kakhetian Khashlama (boiled beef). After, you should take a little break with Chvishtari (cornbread with cheese) and Georgian wine and then continue your journey into the world of tastes.
Chashushuli of a goat kid (a kind of Stifado) with pumpkin is the best main dish for the autumn season – it is as popular during the harvest as meat roasted on a skewer.
Ragout of entrails boiled in white wine is also an exotic autumn dish. It is a well-known fact that in the autumn time the main accent is made on lungs and sub-products in general.
The wild meat of quail, wild duck, turtle-love, pheasant roasted on a spit or Ketsi (earthenware frying-pan) take a special place in the autumn menu, as the active hunting season begins in August.
Fish-lovers can get gastronomic delights from sheat-fish in Kindzmari (a special sauce), Georgian Tsvera and mountain trout. The fish season starts in spring, but it can be permanently included in the menu with Tkemali, cherry sauce or other Georgian sauces.
A tandem of Megrelian Ghomi (millet) and Gebzhalia (a mixture of cheese, curd cheese and mint) will considerably enrich your menu, in spite these dishes not being of autumn color. The delicious tomato sauce and Ghomi together is also a mouthwatering combination, accompanied with a tasty pullet.
I am not talking much about bread and it is better to avoid lots of pastry during this season, but you should definitely taste “Dedas bread” (a kind of Tone bread). It is also recommended to eat maize-bread or Khmiadi (bread without yeast).
What about wine? Of course, Georgian, and you should choose it according to your dish.
This scrumptious journey should be rounded off with an assortment of Georgian fruits. Imagine how colorful it will look! You will get an even more wonderful dessert by adding some May honey to the assortment.
It is the season for Tatara, too, (made mainly with pressed, condensed grape juice and flour); taste it warm or cold. Pelamushi (almost the same dessert) comes from Western Georgia, but is softer and made from corn flour.
One of the most popular delicacies is the autumn queen –pumpkin. A pumpkin’s best quality is that it is fabulous for desserts and yet, just by adding some spices – it can be cooked in main dishes with chicken or wild meat. A delicious dessert can also be prepared from baked pumpkin, glazed with honey and roasted pumpkin seeds.
Boiled new corn cob with salt or Ajika (hot, spicy and flavored dip) was an ancient dessert in Samegrelo. The Abkhazian nobility were fond of national desserts Elarji (made from coarse cornmeal, corn flour and Sulguni cheese and Matsoni (Georgian yoghurt) with honey.
In a word, the gastronomic culture of Georgia is broad and all you have to do is choose to get sensory feel for the country.
Harvest is the most interesting period in Kakheti and it is a real treat to visit this unique wine region in this golden period. Unlike other regions in Georgia, Kakheti is more “meat-oriented” and I want to make a particular emphasis on Mtsvadi (roast meat on skewers) which, in my opinion is a Kakhetian brand, especially when grilled over dried vine wood (tsalami), producing the most marvelous aroma. Mstvadi with “Dedas bread” is a kind of ritual food of the region and in ancient times this bread was baked by an elder housewife in a clay bakery (tone) on dried vine wood.
A lamb or a goat kid was killed during the harvest and afterwards fried with quince. But while being in Kakheti you should definitely taste Kakhetian Khashlama – beef boiled in its juice, which symbolically served as a tribute to God, usually served at celebration feasts or funeral repasts.
Wash and cut the beef into medium-large chunks. Add to a deep pot of hot water, cover and bring to the boil. Pour out the water. Add fresh water and an onion that has been cut into two pieces. Do not add salt at this stage. Bring to the boil and remove any foam from the top of the water. Partly cover and simmer for 1 hour, add the bay leaves, garlic and black peppercorns. Garnish with coarse salt and parsley and serve hot. Kakhetian Khashlama is prepared without fat and is very easy to digest.
One of the visit cards in Kakheti is Chakapuli with tarragon. This dish is made from lamb chops or veal, onions, tarragon leaves, cherry plums or Tkemali, dry white wine, mixed fresh herbs, garlic and salt.
The red Kakhetian beans with nuts, Guda cheese, “Dedas bread” and red wine is a real bouquet of the region, afterwards followed dessert – Tatara.
Tatara is made of grape juice. In 1L juice you should add 200 gr flour and boil for approximately an hour, until it gets thick. It needs constant stirring while boiling. It is served warm or cold, but it is best tasted cold with roasted walnuts.
The nutritious dinner above pairs well with Qvevri (clay vessel) wine and there is nothing like having the full culinary experience on location at a wine cellar. You can also taste new sparkling wine and picante Guda cheese.
And don’t forget Churchkhela, the national sweet and Georgian “gastronomic souvenir”.
I think Khachapuri is the visit card of Georgian cuisine, Adjarian and Megrelian Khachapuri, Shqmeruli from Racha and Megrelian Gebzhalia.
It’s a rather difficult question to answer, but I will try to name a few. Every region has its individual exotic dish. I think Georgian Satsivi (walnut sauce) should be included in Georgian gastronomic culture, also goat kid boiled in milk with spices and pepper (Abkhazia) and Megrelian dish – piglet in Tkemali, Ajika, and fried on dried vine wood and served with cheesy Kuchmachi (made of chicken livers, hearts and gizzards with walnuts).
For me cheese is associated with “hamo” – a Megrelian word for all dairy products. In ancient Samegrelo this word was also a synonym of abundance and harmony in a family, a good child was also called “hamo”. To me, Georgian cheese is an absolutely unique and interesting phenomena. “Tenili” cheese was listed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list, now it is the turn of “Dambali Khacho” (a kind of cottage cheese).
Georgian cheese is interesting from a different aspect and still needs proper studying as every historical-ethnographic place in the country had its own specific variety. It has a lot of potential from the gastronomic-touristic perspective, because the “this can be tasted only here” thesis can become an image of the country, like Georgian Qvevri wine. Do you know why? Sulguni does not like to travel or be kept in a refrigerator, it is a Queen cheese and will reduce in flavor and quality if separated from its mother serum; consequently, it should be tasted in its place of origin. Guda cheese from Tusheti is absolutely unique in its production and storing techniques. Amazing “Presili” dipped in “Tibaanuri Saperavi” (wine) with slightly sourish exotic taste, flattish surface and violet tones, “Tenili” – Meskhetian cheese, which is kept in a pot to ripen- you can come across this cheese in Samtskhe-Javakheti where it is regarded as delicacy.
Imeretian cheese, Megrelian Kazla, cheese from Kobi and Tsalka may seem simple next to the above-mentioned “colleagues”, but each of them has its own specific aroma and healthy qualities.