We’re turning our attention back to Georgia to take a look at how walnuts form the backbone of the nation’s cuisine. This versatile nut can be made into a sauce, bazhe, and slathered on slices of fried aubergine or poured over a cucumber and tomato salad. It’s also used liberally in the vegetable dip, pkhali, in the thicker satsivi paste and in the red bean dish, lobio.
We made some bazhe to roll up in slices of fried aubergine, a favourite from the days of visiting Georgian restaurants. These aubergine rolls, nigvziani badrijani in Georgian, are usually served at the start of the meal, especially at lengthy wine and chacha (a grape-based spirit akin to Italy’s grappa or Greece’s tsipouro) fuelled banquets, but we think they’re great to eat at anytime and they’re particularly handy for picnics or barbecues.
To remove the bitter taste of the aubergine, sprinkle with salt and leave for 30 minutes. Rinse in cold water and pat dry with kitchen roll. Make sure the oil is very hot when frying the slices – this will help them not to soak up too much fat while cooking.,
Ingredients (for 16-20 aubergine rolls)
3 or 4 large aubergines
100 ml cooking oil
100 g walnuts
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon vinegar (red or white wine or apple)
1 tablespoon pomegranate sauce
1 teaspoon blue fenugreek (use cumin seeds if you can’t find this)
1 teaspoon marigold flower (use turmeric if you can’t find this)
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon paprika
50 ml cold water
Salt to sprinkle over the aubergine slices
Fresh basil and coriander leaves to garnish
Make the walnut sauce first. Crush the nuts using the back of a wooden spoon on a wooden chopping board. This method gives the sauce a more crunchy texture. Mince the garlic and mix with the nuts in a bowl. Add the spices, vinegar and pomegranate sauce and combine all the ingredients into a smooth paste. Add water until the sauce has a more runny consistency but is still quite thick.
While the sauce is chilling in the fridge, fry the aubergine. Heat 50 ml of oil in a heavy based pan. Top and tail the aubergine and slice off a thin layer of skin on both sides. Cut the aubergine into 0.5 cm slices lengthways and then fry on both sides until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper.
When the slices have cooled down, spread the walnut sauce onto the slice and then roll it up. Garnish with fresh herbs such as coriander and basil, and pomegranate seeds (if you have any – we’re not expecting any until autumn) and serve cold with other Georgian starters such as pkhali and crusty bread.
This week we’ll be cooking something for the chillier autumnal evenings, a tasty bake that combines chickpeas, tomatoes and courgettes with a breadcrumb topping.
The autumn months are always a busy time in the KCC kitchen with not much time for shopping so we dug deep into the kitchen cupboard and found some dried chickpeas and then located a bag of breadcrumbs in the freezer. After some googling, we came up with a recipe for this gratin.
If you’re using dried chickpeas, then we suggest soaking overnight in cold water and then simmering for an hour or so in fresh water until they are beginning to soften. You can even try this method that was featured in the Guardian recently, which soaks the chickpeas for 48 hours to make them ultra soft.
Ingredients (serves 3-4)
75 ml olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
One medium-sized onion
250 g tomatoes
250 g chickpeas (cooked)
100 ml chickpea cooking liquid (or vegetable stock)
200 g courgettes
For the topping:
125 g breadcrumbs
15 g parsley
2 teaspoons red chilli flakes
Heat 25ml of olive oil in a frying pan and add the cumin seeds and finely chopped onion. Fry for 10 minutes or so over a medium heat until the onions are translucent. Add the peeled, chopped tomatoes and cook for another 10 minutes and then add the chickpeas and stock and simmer over a low heat for 10 more minutes.
While this is cooking, heat another 25ml of olive oil in a frying pan and fry the courgette (cut it into 0.5 cm rounds) over a medium heat, turn the courgette rounds over after five minutes so both sides are charred.
Pour the chickpea and tomato mix into a greased oven dish, cover this with fried courgettes. Mix the breadcrumbs, the remaining oil and the herbs and spices together well and then cover the bake with this mixture.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 c for 30 minutes or so, until the mix is bubbling and the topping has gone a nice golden brown. Serve with a green salad and boiled or fried potatoes
You can serve this simple to prepare red Lentil Pâté alongside these other dishes for a great spread of mezeler for a light feast that’s perfect for sharing with friends on a balmy summer’s night.
Ingredients (makes around 200g)
125 g red lentils
300 ml cold water
Two tablespoons fine bulgur wheat
4 or 5 spring onions
10 g fresh parsley
25 ml olive oil
One teaspoon mustard seeds
One teaspoon cumin seeds
Two teaspoons paprika
One teaspoon ground coriander seeds
One teaspoon black pepper
Half a teaspoon turmeric
Clean the lentils in cold water and then put them in a pan with the bayleaf. Pour 300 ml of water over the lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils are beginning to go mushy and most of the water has been absorbed.
Remove the bayleaf and add the fine bulgur wheat to the lentils and mix well. Leave covered for 30 minutes. heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the mustard and cumin seeds. Fry for a few minutes and then add the paprika, coriander, black pepper and turmeric, cook for a minute stirring constantly and then add the finely chopped spring onion and parsley and cook for five more minutes over a medium heat.
Stir this into the lentil and bulgur mix and leave to stand for a few hours in the fridge. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint and serve with crusty bread.