Hazelnut Paste

Tkhilis sakmazi

Guria is one of the regions that borders on the Black Sea, and its sub-tropical climate is perfect for growing the hazelnuts that now cover a large part of the region, having replaced both vineyards and tea bushes as a cash crop. Hazelnuts may be less prized than walnuts in most of the country but they provide interesting variations on some of the best-loved recipes.

Think of this rather dry paste as a concentrate to be diluted before use with whatever is best-suited to the dish: water for a light salad or oil for painting onto roasting chicken. Taste a few of your hazelnuts before making the paste to be sure they are fresh and not bitter.

To make a tasty but light dressing for the cucumber and tomato salad that appears on every Georgian supra table, stir 2 tablespoons of water into 2 tablespoons of paste in a small bowl, mix well and pour over the salad. That will be sufficient for 2 to 3 people; increase the quantities for a bigger salad.

 
  • 110gr/4oz/1 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 12g/1/3oz/3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 25g/2/3oz/½ cup chopped coriander/cilantro leaves
  • fresh chilli, to taste

 

 

Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until a thick paste has been obtained. (Note: whole hazelnuts get stuck easily on the blades of the machine, so it’s best to chop them coarsely before you process them.)

Store the paste in the refrigerator covered closely with plastic wrap to stop oxidation. It will keep for a week or more. You can also freeze it in small batches for later use.

recipesCarla Capalbo
Ajapsandali

Vegetable medley

This very colourful vegetable stew from Pheasant’s Tears chef, Gia Rokashvili, resembles ratatouille but combines root and summer vegetables (and has no courgettes/zucchini). The vegetables cook together: cut them into good-size chunks so they retain their flavours and bite. You can adapt ajapsandali to whatever vegetables you have available. What makes it so Georgian is the quantity of fresh herbs that bring it to life. The original recipe calls for a whole head of garlic, but I find that’s too much unless you have fragrant fresh garlic to hand, so just use as much as you like. Ajapsandali is as good cold as it is hot or warm.

 
  All the vegetables cook together in one large pan

All the vegetables cook together in one large pan

 

SERVES 8-10  ·  PREP 25 minutes  ·  COOK 45 minutes

  • 500g/1lb 2oz potatoes
  • 300g/10 oz carrots
  • 30g/1 oz/2 tbsp butter
  • 6 tbsp sunflower oil
  • ¼ tsp dried summer savory (kondari) or wild thyme
  • 675g/1lb 8 oz small aubergines/eggplants, sliced crosswise
  • 2 red peppers, cut into bite-size chunks
  • 115g/4oz smaller, pale green peppers, seeded and quartered
  • 450g/1lb tomatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 400g/14 oz onions, chopped
  • 30g/1 oz garlic/8 garlic cloves, or to taste, roughly chopped fresh green chilli, to taste
  • 1 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 20g/2/3 oz/½ cup red and/or green basil, chopped
  • 20g/2/3 oz/½ cup coriander/cilantro, chopped
  • 10g/1/3 oz/¼ cup parsley, chopped
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
 
tasting-georgia-carla-capalbo-Ajapsandali-2.jpg

Peel and chop the potatoes and carrots into large, bite-size pieces. Heat the butter and oil with the kondari or thyme in a large heavy saucepan. Add the potatoes and carrots, cover, and cook them over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, or until they start to soften. Stir occasionally.

Add the aubergines/eggplants to the pan, stirring well. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add the red and green peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, chilli and salt and stir well. Cover. Cook over medium heat until the vegetables give up their juices, about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

Test the aubergines/eggplants and potatoes for doneness. When they are tender, and the other vegetables seem cooked too, add the herbs. Stir them into the vegetables and cook for 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat. Allow the ajapsandali to stand for at least 5 minutes before serving hot or at room temperature.

 
recipesCarla Capalbo