Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Khachapuri - the Georgian cheesebread with Suluguni

It made my meals when I was in Georgia. Always freshly baked and warm, really soft and full of melting local Suluguni cheese, salty enough to awaken my senses - khachapuri - I swore to myself I would make it.
Buying cheese at the market in Tbilisi was an experience. As I had promised myself to only buy the best, I ended up with more bits of cheese between my fingers and jaws than I would have liked. You can't throw a half eaten bite onto the ground, can you? Oh you can't! When I asked for Suluguni, I was directed to one certain seller and I got to try cheeses with different saltiness - I finally settled with one with average salt level. And boy was I happy - although Suluguni is the most famous among Georgian cheeses, It had not been served to us often.

There are very different kinds of khachapuri that are of different shapes and use different fillings and vary according to region. As I have understood, the dough is usually made without yeast, but I'd really like to try out a recipe using it too. The curiosity! I believe I added a bit too much flour when rolling the dough this time - don't do that mistake or the bread will turn numb! If possible, use Suluguni cheese when making the bread. It may be substituted with Georgian Imeruli or Bryndza. As it has quite a high melting point too, I believe Halloumi would do as well.

(from the Estonian food magazine "Oma Maitse")

2 1/2 dl milk
1 egg
1/2 tsp baking powder

300 g Suluguni cheese
1 egg

1. Mix together milk and the egg, add salt (you might not want to add much as the cheese is quite salty).
2. Add flour until you have a soft rollable dough (According to my measures I added about 350 g) and then knead it thoroughly.
3. Add a bit oil and let the dough stand for about 10-15 minutes.
4. Grate the cheese and mix it with beaten egg.
5. Divide the dough and cheese mixture into portions - I divided them into three and got khachapuris that were just a bit smaller than a regular pan.
6. Roll one portion into a thin circle and cover it with cheese mixture. Gather the edge together to the middle and press the surface of the circle even so that the filling doesn't show.
7. Heat oil in a pan and fry the khatchapuri, same side up, covered, until golden brown. Then turn it over and fry uncovered until done.
8. Serve warm

Yes, do serve it warm. You may re-heat it afterwards on a pan, in the oven or in the microwave, but it tastes a bazillion times better when served fresh from the pan. When eating it for the first time in Georgia, I made the fatal mistake of trying to eat it with a fork and a knife - just be civilised, okay? This is eaten between your fingers. Take some salad beside it - that you may eat with a fork. "She'll learn," I sensed my companions thinking. Well I did.


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