Today, we are discovering khachapuri, one of the most emblematic dishes of Georgian cuisine, meaning “cheese bread”. This Georgian cheese bread is also known as khaizzin, khabidzgina or kesituli.
Over the centuries, because of its geographical position, Georgia has borrowed culinary influences from all its neighbors, but has nevertheless retained its identity. It is the result of the rich interaction of culinary ideas imagined by merchants and travelers along the trade routes.
Georgian cuisine is fresh and robust and makes use of a lot of vegetables. Every region of Georgia has a distinct culinary tradition.
Nuts are one of the most used ingredients. Bread and cheese can be found on each table and the dishes are enriched with meats, hot peppers, spices and fresh herbs such as cilantro and parsley. Georgian dishes are born to be shared!
Supra and keipi
In a country where hospitality is paramount and where the guest, whoever he is, is considered as a gift, it is not surprising that the dishes reflect this immense human quality, especially at traditional festivals such as the supra.
Supra (სუფრა in Georgian) is the name given to the banquet table during keipi (ქეიფი in Georgian), which translates to “parties”. Supra means “banquet”.
During this keipi, speeches, songs, and dances follow one another under the authority of a person designated beforehand for the occasion, and called the tamada (თამადა in Georgian) or “toastmaster”. It is the tamada who gives the speeches and invites the guests to speak.
He orchestrates the supra from one end of the table and give toasts in a specific order, first in honor of God, then peace, the homeland, parents, each guest, spouse, children, friends, neighbors, dear loved ones, the Virgin Mary and the protecting angel. Each of these toasts, which is a true celebration, is sometimes delivered as a poem.
The importance of food and drink in Georgian culture is therefore expressed best during a keipi thanks to a very wide range of dishes always accompanied by large quantities of wine. The supra can last for many hours.
If you have the chance to attend one of these gargantuan banquets, here are some examples, among a very wide choice of dishes, of what you may find on the tables:
– You will always find adjika, a spicy sauce with bell peppers, tomatoes, hot peppers that are also found in the cuisines of Turkey and Azerbaijan. Adjika is present on all the Georgian tables and is as ubiquitous as harissa in Tunisian cuisine or ajvar in Balkan region.
– Khinkali, big ravioli stuffed with meat and vegetables.
– Lobio, an excellent soup of red beans.
– Ispanakhis pkhali, made from spinach, coriander, walnuts and pomegranates.
– Satsivi, a large turkey, sometimes a chicken, in a saffron sauce.
– Gozinaki, a delicious dried fruits nougat.
– But, the most appreciated of these traditional recipes remains khachapuri in all its forms.
What is khachapuri?
The word khachapuri comes from the word khacho which means cheese (cottage) and the word puri which means bread.
What is the origin of khachapuri?
Despite khachapuri’s popularity in Georgian cuisine, culinary specialists and historians still do not seem to have reached an agreement on its origin.
However, considerations about its historical origins are not only uncertain but also controversial in some respects. Most experts agree that the Georgian khachapuri recipe arrived in Europe with Roman legionaries returning from military campaigns in the Black Sea. Some have even speculated that khachapuri could be a kind the ancestor of pizza.
According to Dali Tsatava, a famous Georgian author and professor at the Georgian Culinary Academy in Tbilisi, khachapuri could be a kind of “pizza cousin”. He says in his writings that the recipe was introduced in Europe by these Roman soldiers and that at the time, Europeans were unaware of the existence of tomato that did not reach Europe until the sixteenth century. The recipe brought to Georgia by the Romans only included bread and cheese, like the original khachapuri.
Other scholars of Georgian culture and gastronomy have attempted to explain the origins of the first khachapuri based on its characteristic form, that of the hull of a ship. It is thought that its shape is linked to the place where the khachapuri recipe was made in Adjara on the Black Sea. This place is famous for the gift of many of its inhabitants to build boats and the hypothesis that the khachapuri would be born there, to pay tribute to the expert carpenters of Adjara, was therefore considered.
What are the different versions of khachapuri?
There are several types of khachapuri in Georgian cuisine, from different regions of Georgia:
– In Imereti, you will find imeruli khachapuri, which is circular and probably the most common.
– In the Adjara region, people eat acharuli or adjaruli khachapuri, in which the dough is shaped like an open boat, surmounted by a raw egg.
And these are the two kinds of khachapuri that we are preparing today.
But there are also the no less famous:
– Mingrelian khachapuri, called megruli khachapuri, similar to imeruli but with more cheese.
– Achma khachapuri, native of Abkhazia, which has several layers and is more like lasagna.
– Gurian khachapuri, called guruli khachapuri made with boiled eggs in the dough.
– Ossetian khachapuri, called osuri khachapuri, made from potato and cheese. It is commonly called khabizgini.
– Svanuri khachapuri, also called lemzira, made from millet flour and cheese.
– Racha khachapuri, called rachuli khachapuri, rectangular in shape, made from cheese only.
– Penovani khachapuri which is made with puff pastry, and therefore gives a flaky variety.
How to make khachapuri?
Khachapuri is stuffed with suluguni, a cheese made from cow or sheep’s milk, and especially difficult to find outside of Georgia. It is therefore often recommended to replace it with a mixture of feta, mozzarella and ricotta.
Most pan-baked breads look more or less the same. The imeruli actually resembles the Lebanese manaich bread or the huni roshi from the Maldives. But the taste and the texture of each of them are very different.
Khachapuri in the news
Khachapuri is so important in Georgian culinary heritage that Georgian use variations in the cost of its production to measure the level of inflation. The Institute of Economics at Tbilisi University called it the khachapuri index.
Khachapuri is also popular in the Soviet states and especially in Russia. It is said that 175,000 khachapuri were consumed during the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games. Khachapuri is also a very popular street food in Armenia. It is also very popular in all its forms in Israel where it was brought by the Jews of Georgia who are very numerous over there.
Do you know what Georgians say? That this typical dish is able to convey positive emotions and bring happiness to all those who eat it but on one condition: that the cook was happy and serene when he prepared it.
Beyond these local beliefs, it is obvious that it is not difficult to say that khachapuri is really able to bring a moment of happiness, at least at the moment when it is eaten, as it is a real pleasure for the palate.
Khachapuri is a gondola-shaped Georgia bread whose yeastless dough is kneaded with yogurt and stuffed with different grated cheeses.
- 2 cups flour
- 1½ teaspoon baking powder
- ⅘ cup yogurt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup milk (warm)
- 2 pinches white pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ lb feta , grated
- ⅓ lb mozzarella , grated
- ¼ lb ricotta (or 1/3 lb grated Gouda)
- 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
- Eggs + butter (for adjaruli khachapuri only)
- Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl with a spoon.
- Add yogurt and oil and knead, adding the milk gradually until light and smooth.
- Form a ball, cover with a plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.
- Mix all ingredients for the filling (except butter and eggs) and reserve.
- Divide dough into 8 balls of equal size.
Roll out each ball of dough into a 10-inch (25 cm) diameter circle.
- Place the stuffing in the center of the circle.
Fold the edges to the center, and press together.
- Turn dough on the other side.
Gently roll out with a rolling pin until you get a circle of about 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter.
- Do not press too hard with the rolling pin as stuffing might come out.
- Heat a nonstick lightly oiled skillet over low heat.
- Put in a khachapuri and cover.
- When the first side is golden brown, turn over and cook the other side, always covered with the lid.
Preheat oven to 410 F / 210 C.
- Spread the dough, giving it the shape of a gondola.
- Add the cheese filling in the center.
- Brush the edges of the gondola with egg yolk.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Open the oven, break an egg in the center of the gondola on top of the melted cheeses.
- Cook the egg for a few minutes.
- Monitor the cooking of the egg which must not dry. The yolk should stay liquid.
- Put a knob of butter on top as the khachapuri comes right out of the oven. Serve hot.