Hello, again. This is the last of my foodie holiday posts. I do appreciate that other people’s holiday shots can be really hard to suffer through. Next post, I swear, will be back to normal.
We have now moved on from Armenia to Georgia and things are a bit more cheery. I mentioned in my previous post that Armenia made a sweet meat similar to the Georgian Churchkhela. In Armenia, we only saw them at the GUM market but, in Georgia, they were everywhere.
My plan was to show you a couple of photos of the Churchkhela and then give you a recipe in case you wanted to make some yourself. They are very yummy and would make a nice after-dinner treat. But I have a warning.
When I am away, I like to find little gifts to take home to family and friends but I was really struggling on this trip. A lot of things we saw really would not translate well into Western houses and my friends and family are at that awkward age when they really don’t need, or even want, anything. I decided I would buy food items so they could taste different things from a part of the world they would, probably, never visit.
With this idea in mind, when in Iran I bought two containers of sweets from a shop renowned for its local sweets. After bouncing around in my case for a while, one of the containers got broken – not a good look for a gift. When I got home, I tasted the sweets from the broken container. They were extremely sweet and tasted strongly of cardamom. I didn’t think they were to the Western taste. I couldn’t think of anyone who may like them – they went in the bin. The other container was so nice, Maus and I ate them all before I got to give them to anyone.
In Azerbaijan, I bought two boxes of their baklava because it is very different from anything we have here. Alas, all that sugar syrup was contained when the boxes were upright but, obviously, my case had a few tumbles on the route home. All the sugar syrup leaked out of the plastic bags it was in, through the boxes and into my case. I ended up salvaging the baklava but it was in such a state I could not give it to anyone. Maus and I have made our way through one box but two is a lot. I think the other box will be going the same way as the Iranian sweets – in the bin.
In Georgia, I bought some Churchkhela as part of my plan. Alas, when I got home and opened my case, they were all broken and bashed about so I couldn’t give them to anyone, either. Maus and I had a bit of one but the rest were left. Then, the other day, when I went to eat a piece, it was all mouldy. Clearly, they don’t have a long shelf life. The Churchkhela ended up in the bin, tooooo!
Check out this photo. When I was going through my photos determining which ones to include, I discounted this because the Churchkhela looked mouldy. Well, now I know it probably is mould. Interestingly, it is still for sale. I don’t know if I would want to eat it but I wonder if it is harmless. Mine were, actually, mouldy inside as well. Yuk!
Now, notwithstanding that warning, Churchkhela are very yummy and worth making but, clearly, they do not have a long shelf life. Here, at last, is the recipe. I have a caveat. I have not made them and, probably, never will. But there may be a brave soul out there who is willing to give it a go.
The recipe comes from a book I bought in Georgia for the sole reason, it cost 40 GELs (Georgian Lari) and I had 40 GELs in my pocket the day before leaving Georgia. The book is entitled Georgian Dishes. The instructions are very vague and the quantities seem amazingly small but here it is anyway.
- 250g ripe grape flesh (I guess this is just whole grapes smashed up – surely, no one would be bothered peeling them)
- 25g flour (half plain flour and half corn flour (starch))
- 40g walnuts
- 50g raisins/dried plums
- Thread the walnuts and raisins/dried plums onto a piece of string, set aside. As I have never made these, I don’t know if this makes more than one. If so, make each about 20cm/8 inches long.
- Boil the grape flesh until it is ⅓ its initial volume – geez, there wouldn’t be much left.
- When cool, squeeze it. I am guessing that you put it in a tea-towel, or similar cloth, and squeeze it to separate the juice from the flesh. Discard the flesh.
- Mix the flour with the juice and boil again for approximately 10 minutes, stirring all the while so it doesn’t get lumpy. If it does, I would just stick blend it.
- Dip the threaded nut/fruit into the boiling paste, twice.
- Hang them up and keep in a shaded place until well-dried and hardened.
- Beware of mould 🙂
More photos of ladies making bread in a traditional oven. This lady was at a vineyard where we were having dinner. It is amazing how the bread sticks to the walls of the oven. When it is done, it begins to come away from the wall. This method of baking bread has been practised for 1000’s of years throughout the Middle East, Central Asia and India. When you are on a good thing, stick to it.
Here it is, cooking away.
This is the honeycomb bread we saw in Iran that I was telling you about. I didn’t include this photo in my original post on Iran as it is a shocker. Unfortunately, it is the only one I have and it is very interesting so, even though it is a shocker, I decided to show you. The bread comes out looking like bubble wrap. It is super, super thin and, to be honest, when eaten cold out of a plastic bag, pretty tasteless but, straight from the oven as a “utensil” for scooping up some delicacy, it comes into its own. I am guessing the texture is to allow more sauce, etc, to be absorbed.
These guys are called Khinkali. They are very popular in Georgia. I am not a big fan of steamed food but I did try them and they were very nice. Inside is a filling of pork and/or lamb, onions, herbs and broth. Tradition says that when you eat the dumpling, you hold it by the nose and eat away, making sure you do not spill any of the broth. That is to be slurped up. There is a recipe for these guys, too, in my book, if anyone is interested.
As we were eating dinner, San noticed that the fermenting juice in one of the pots was growing bigger and bigger and oozing out of the pot and onto the floor. We were all fascinated by it and took to watching it rise. Then, all of a sudden, this man appeared. He was clearly very grumpy about the runaway juice and raced to get his paddle to push it back down into its container.
I took this photo in Azerbaijan because I had never seen ornamental pomegranates before. These were not edible and not much bigger than a walnut. I thought they looked smashing.
Although, when I was choosing this photo for the post, I noticed all the bugs on the leaves. In this photo, I zoomed in on the offending part to show you. Look, there are bugs everywhere. It is interesting because normal pomegranate trees are very tough and not susceptible to any insects.
Here is a pomegranate that won’t get bugs. The pomegranate is huge in all four countries I visited. Why not have a statue with a pomegranate head? This is in a park in Baku, Azerbaijan.