Tastes Of The Caucasus

A mountainous land, the caucasus boasts a rich cuisine. And one of the main reasons for that is the region’s tremendous cultural diversity.

The deep-rooted traditions of this land, which is home to many ethnic groups large and small, are also reflected in its cuisine. In the Ottoman period, countless officials of Caucasian descent rose to prominent positions in the palace administration. The unique qualities and respect for traditional values of the Caucasian people also manifest themselves in their food culture, in which table arrangement and etiquette are as important as the food itself. The meal begins with words spoken by the family elder, who has the most respected place at the table.

The preparation of special dishes for certain days of the year is another outstanding feature of Caucasian cuisine. Being strong and having a healthy body are traditional values highly prized in the region. And there is, without a doubt, a close relationship between this lively activity, which is also reflected in Caucasian folk dances, and the region’s nutritional practices. Dishes based on milk and dairy products are among the dominant elements in Caucasian cuisine. And ‘kefir’, a miraculous nutrient that is friendly to the digestive system, is the Caucasian beverage par excellence. Milk and meat are frequently used together in the dishes of the Caucasian peoples. Vegetables, on the other hand, which are only grown in limited amounts and at intervals in this mountainous terrain, have given way instead to a variety of meats, dairy products and pastry dishes. Despite its proximity to the rice-growing regions, this grain is not widely used in Caucasian cuisine. For making bread, corn and millet are the staple grains. The Caucasus is a melting pot, and influences from Russia in the north, Iran and Central Asia in the east and the Black Sea and Anatolia in the west have combined to make Caucasian cuisine very rich indeed.

CAUCASUS MEAT PIE

Ingredıents:
2 kg wheat flour, water and salt as needed, 1 kg lamb coarsely minced, 250 g margarine, 4 cloves of garlic, 2 medium onions, 1 tbsp red pepper, 1 tbsp black pepper

Preparation:
Knead the flour, water and salt into a stiff dough. Divide in two and roll out with a rolling pin. Spread each round with margarine. Then roll up and roll out again, and arrange on an oiled baking sheet. Cook the minced lamb, finely chopped garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper, water and finely chopped onion over medium heat. If desired, add two medium potatoes, grated. Spread this filling on one round of dough and cover with the other, pressing the edges and crimping with your fingers. Make a hole in center of the dough and spread a layer of thin ‘yufka’ (phyllo) over the top. Bake in the oven. Remove the yufka when it browns and the pie will continue to cook.

CAUCASİAN CHİCKEN WİTH WALNUTS

Ingredıents:
1 whole chicken, 1 kg walnut meats, 5 dried hot red peppers, 4 cloves of garlic, 4 slices of bread, crusts removed, 2 tsp coriander, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 6 cups chicken stock

Preparation:
Clean, wash, boil and bone the chicken and tear the meat into shreds. Boil the dried red peppers and remove the seeds. Pass some of the walnut meats through a meat grinder together with the peppers, garlic and bread. Then pass the rest of the walnuts through the grinder and save the oil in a cup. Add the salt and cold chicken stock to the ground mixture and mix well. Transfer the shredded chicken to a serving platter and top with the mixture. Drizzle with the walnut oil.
Note: If the walnut oil has not been extracted, heat some oil in a skillet, add powdered red pepper and drizzle the mixture over the walnut chicken.

UZBEK MEAT PASTRY

Ingredıents:
500 g flour, 4 g salt, 1 egg, 200 g water. For the Filling: Minced lamb, 100 g finely chopped onion, 200 g potatoes, diced, 2 g cumin, 2 g black pepper, 3 g salt
For the Sauce: 100 g butter, 5 g red pepper flakes, 300 g yoghurt,
1/4 bunch fresh dill, finely chopped

Preparation:
Combine all the ingredients for the dough and knead in a bowl or on a marble countertop. Cover with a damp towel and let stand about 20 minutes. In another bowl, mix the filling ingredients. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin and cut into 10x10 cm squares. Place a generous portion of filling on each square, fold up and seal shut. Then cook in a steamer. Melt the butter in a skillet, add the red pepper flakes and heat. Transfer the steamed mantı to a serving platter, top with the yoghurt and drizzle with the hot butter sauce. Garnish with finely chopped fresh dill.