Showing posts with label Khachapuri. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Khachapuri. Show all posts

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Recipes: Khachapuri/Georgian pizza

This is a difficult recipe to get right. I first came across it on my trip to Georgia, the ex-Soviet state, last year. One of the culinary discoveries I enjoyed most was Khachapuri, a kind of pizza, but which contained very salty cheese called Sulguni. Khacha is Georgian for cheese and puri is derived from the Sanskrit for bread, just as a 'puri' is a puffy bread in Indian cooking.
Myself and Helen of Food Stories (a fantastically talented food blogger whom I'm amazed hasn't won any awards yet) were both on this trip. We've been mulling it over...where to get Sulguni? how do we make khachapuri when we don't have a tandoori style oven? what is the best recipe? Yes these are the things about which food bloggers lay awake at night, fretting.

Another thing that happened in Georgia, on the dusty trails lurching from kvevri to kvevri,! Our Helen met our Donald, a ferociously gifted wine blogger. They both like to party and the rest is history. They are now living together, a formidable team. Love in the blogosphere.
Helen and I have since been searching for convincing recipes. Part of the problem was nowhere in the UK sold Sulguni. The award-winning book The Georgian Feast contained a couple of disappointing recipes that just didn't seem right. The author suggested using Danish Havarti cheese and Muenster which was just wrong. Had she even been to Georgia, we wondered?
I tried another recipe from the New York Times which wasn't right either, lacking the yoghurt in the dough, giving a slightly sour taste.
Then Jerusalem, the book by Ottolenghi, came out, with a recipe for khachapuri. There is a sizeable Jewish population in Georgia, some of whom emigrated to Israel. (The food in Israel is excellent, being influenced by the Jewish diaspora, ie: everywhere). Khachapuri is a popular snack in Israel, hence it's inclusion in 'Jerusalem'.
So Donald, Helen and Chris Pople came over. Helen even found Sulguni in a Bayswater shop! Donald bought a kalashnikov of Armenian brandy ! We all decided it was the moment to taste every bizarro dairy product you have ever seen in Eastern European shops but were too scared to ask. You know that  glass of white stuff called 'Puck'? It's basically Dairylea but saltier therefore nicer.
There are two main types of Khachapuri: circular and boat/fish shaped. The 'fish' shape is reputed to be related to Christianity. In Tbilisi we were given the circular Khachapuri, 'megruli', filled and topped with cheese. In other parts of Georgia, you can have 'Ajarian' Khachapuri, which is sometimes topped with an egg.
Despite the Bayswater Sulguni being the 'real' thing, it didn't seem salty enough. One wants a stretchy mozzarella type cheese with a high salt content. Ottolenghi's solution of a mixture of feta, ricotta and halloumi did taste very authentic. However I disagree with one aspect of his recipe: brushing the dough with egg before baking. It wasn't like that in Georgia, in fact the circular version had almost a thin flakey dough encasing the very salty cheese. So it's still not right but we are getting there!
(Tweaked) Jerusalem Khachapuri recipe

250g strong white flour
10g quick acting dried yeast or 20g fresh yeast
1 egg
110g  plain yoghurt
60ml lukewarm water
1 teaspoon salt

40g halloumi cheese, cut into thin slices
20g feta, crumbled
60g ricotta or at a pinch, creamy cottage cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
a pinch of good dried thyme

Eggs optional
Extra salt on top

You know I've stopped sifting flour, I just give it a good stirring with a fork or a few twirls in the food mixer. Most flour nowadays doesn't have lumps and really they ask you to sift it so that it gets air in it.
Less washing up!
Anyway, don't bother sifting the flour, into a bowl, add the yeast, egg, yoghurt, water, then the salt. (Try not to let the salt touch the yeast before mixing, it slows down the rising, so Ottolenghi says to pour the liquid ingredients into a well and sprinkle the salt around the rim.) Mix it all together, cover and leave to rise. It's quite a slow rise. At least 2 or 3 hours.
Then divide the dough into three parts, rolling each part out into a circle 16cms in diameter (on a floury surface der!). Then stretch each end out into a boat shape. Shove the cheese mixture in the middle and try to close up the sides so it doesn't fall out.
Right, really important, preheat your oven up to as high as it will go. You want its maximum temperature, probably about 250ºC.
I've recently treated myself to a peel so I floured that lightly and carefully moved the khachapuri boats onto the peel. Then, because my technique is not yet that great, I managed to move the boats onto the floor of the hottest oven of my Aga. With an ordinary oven, use either a pizza stone, a bit of marble, or a preheated flat baking tray. You want that heat on the bottom, so don't put it onto a cold tray, you want to seal the bottom.
It takes about 15 minutes to cook. Have a look, see if it's golden and puffy.
You can break an egg into the boat as a topping if you like, then return the khachapuri into the oven for another five minutes.
Eat with a tarragon and walnut  salad, that's very Georgian.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Postcards from the fridge: Georgia and Spain

Inspired by the feasts and food of Georgia and also by some of the tapas I recently had in Seville, last night I created a menu for a Natural Wine dinner at the Large Glass gallery near Caledonian Road. Large Glass is a new gallery, open less than a year, curated by Charlotte Schepke. The idea behind Large Glass gallery was to create a space, on a street which isn't known for galleries, very different from the art world establishment in the West End or East End. The latest show, about postcards, is very accessible. Postcards, a relic from the pre-digital world, can be described as 'small intimacies', a specially chosen image with thoughts from another part of the world, they connect people and places in a lovely way.
The postcard heyday was the early 20th century, many obviously featured landscapes but some were also illustrated by food; one postcard featured a couple of punnets of the first strawberries from Tennessee. A seemingly mundane image but food, noise and smells are our most intense souvenirs from a trip...
Back information.
Packing eggs for England: a flourishing industry.

So this meal was comprised of edible postcards from my 'holidays', an uncomplicated connection with the theme of the current exhibition.

Here was the menu which was served 'supra' style, small plates coming one after another:

Georgian cheese bread: khachapuri with egg
Plates of fresh herbs including summer savoury (like stinging nettles!), purple basil, sweet basil, tarragon, coriander, parsley, mint.
Sunflower oil brought from Georgia (unfiltered, cold pressed)
Plum and chilli sauce: green and purple from Georgia
Beetroot and walnut balls
Aubergine rolls stuffed with spinach and walnut 
Beetroot pelmeni stuffed with goat's cheese and walnut
Georgian egg salad
Georgian potato and walnut salad with sunflower oil dressing
Pomegranate, cucumber, onion and parsley salad
Lobio bean stew
Yoghurt with sumak
Pickled peppers stuffed with saurkraut
Pickled garlic and mushroom
Pickled green tomatoes
Georgian folded mozzarella and mint dish

Rrom Spain: clams with mini artichokes in olive oil
Spinach with cumin and chickpeas

Napoleon cake with hazelnuts
Roast quinces with honey and all spice
Fruit leather
Dried Sharon fruits


1.     Zanotto, Col Fondo, Veneto, Italy, 2010

2.     La Biancara, Sassaia, Veneto, Italy, 2009

3.     Antadze, Mtsvane, Kakheti, Georgia, 2010

4.     Aleksi Tsikelashvili, Rkatsiteli, Kakheti, Georgia, 2010

5.     Nika, Saperavi, kakheti, Georgia, 2010

Isabelle Legeron matched the meal with a succession of rare and interesting Natural wines from Georgia. If you want to know more about Natural wine, there is a 'RAW' wine fair in London on the 3rd weekend of May. 
I am grateful to food bloggers @foodstories and Sarah Lohan of for helping with prep and cooking. It's much tougher doing supper clubs in another location, you have to be very organised and take everything you need with you. 

 Pic: Niamh Shields of Eat like a girl
 Making pelmeni pic: Kerstin Rodgers

 Beetroot walnut balls Pic: Niamh Shields of Eat like a girl
 Georgian egg salad Pic: Niamh Shields of Eat like a girl
 Rolled aubergine slices with spinach and walnut.  Pic: Niamh Shields of Eat like a girl
Clams with mini artichokes Pic: Niamh Shields of Eat like a girl
Lobio/bean stew  Pic: Niamh Shields of Eat like a girl
Beetroot ravioli/pelmeni Pic: Niamh Shields of Eat like a girl
Stuffed pickles Pic: Niamh Shields of Eat like a girl
Napoleon cake pic: Kerstin Rodgers
Napoleon cake being cut up Pic: Niamh Shields of Eat like a girl

Myself, Isabelle Legeron and Helen Graves. Pic: Niamh Shields of Eat like a girl