Any person who reads about food extensively, and eats enthusiastically, may rarely find themselves surprised. So often, I flip through the cookbook aisle at the book store and see recipe after recipe that seems either familiar and already covered in my current library, or ridiculous and unnecessary. However, I recently came across Mamushka. This book covers the food of Southern Ukraine and the Caucuses. It is an excellent read and the food is comfortable, innovative, and wonderfully un-faddish. It turns what most of us think about Eastern European food on its head, and I like the curiosity it inspires about the culture and geopolitics of that part of the world.
A Georgian Salad of Kidney Beans, Grilled Onions and Dill
This is loosely adapted from the published recipe that comes with a lovely story about its original source. I have been buying gorgeous red kidney beans from my local organic store. Cooked from dried they have such a lovely fudgy texture, very different from the canned version (which if used here would need no apology, as the original recipe calls for them). My recent purchase of an InstantPot has made canned beans completely redundant in our house. I simply soak the beans for 3-4 hours in warm tap water, or overnight in cold water. I then drain and rinse them and place them with fresh cold water on pressure cook for 12 minutes.
With the beans done, the salad comes together in moments:
- Slice two onions and grill on the bbq in a basket or fry on the stove. For a summer supper I like them partially cooked and browned, but still with a bit of fresh bite. In cold weather I may caramelize them more deeply.
- Chop a mountain of fresh dill, chives, and/or parsley and coriander.
- Mix everything together with olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt and pepper, ground coriander and fennel seed.
I was startled by how good this is. It is simply the most satisfying and interesting bean salad I have ever had. It is both deeply flavoured, and vibrantly green and fresh. It is light while also being substantial. Perfect for a warm evening after a day of heavy garden work.
Grilled Chicken Marinated With Yoghurt, Herbs, and Apricot
This, also adapted from Mamushka, is simply beautiful. The yoghurt has a tenderizing effect and assists the chicken thigh in bronzing wonderfully. The apricot jam brings unexpected depth and flavour.
- Mix a marinade of 1/2 cup greek yoghurt, 1/4 cup apricot jam, a teaspoon of Siracha, a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, and chopped dill, and or cilantro and parsley.
- Let marinade for a few hours or overnight.
- Grill in a grilling basket or directly on the grill.
It goes without saying that a meal like this requires a glass of good red wine.