The Caucasus : a steaming hot pot of sensual soul food
awesome – indulgent – pungent – sexy – spicy – hearty – healthy
The Caucasus mountain range is home to Russia’s, Europe’s and Western Asia’s highest peak, Mount (volcano) Elbrus. The land is shared by 4 States : Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, and countless breakaway areas and Republics divided among descendants of nomadic Turkish tribes. There 3 different climates here: continental, maritime and subtropical – in other words, FOOD HEAVEN. This means fresh fruit and vegetables from a naturally adapted climate, spices, and dishes for every season and all weathers, harsh winters, hot summers, rainy days…. .
No meat, no Mexicans, only Moscow
Buying things in packets is for non-smokers who do sport every day and take their vitamins. Since half of my waking life is spent reporting on death and destruction with only cigarettes for respite, I refuse to buy anything pre-prepared, even if I do turn up for an 11h shift with nothing but an apple… And when the shift is over, I flee the city for a few days and head for the friendly solace of the far away suburbs. Here it has become tradition for me to cook for my hosts. However obtaining ingredients is, pardon the pun, an uphill struggle. So, in accordance with Darwin’s theory, I have evolved international cuisine and adapted it to an ingredient-hostile environment. Please note, this recipe is entirely based on things you can buy in (nearly) any Russian shop.
- Adjika(the good stuff, thick dark rusty red paste)
- Flat lavash a.k.a Armenian Lavash (Caucasian flat bread, like Tortilla only thinner, traditionally rolled out and baked on stones in the sun)
- Carrot: 1.5 cup, grated (reserve half cup for filling)
- Onion x 1 roughly chopped
- Yellow pepper x 1 sliced (reserve half for filling)
- Tomato paste, 2-3 large tablespoons
- Lettuce, washed and torn (for filling)
- Spring onion, roughly chopped
- Tomato x 1, sliced*
- Pumpkin seeds (handful)
- Olive oil
- Leek, 1 cup
- Mushrooms, roughly chunked, 1 cup
- 1 can of peas/sweetcorn/kidney beans
- Any vegetables you can get your hands on
- Add oil to frying pan on high heat (the deeper it is, the easier to mix)
- Brown onions and pumpkin seeds with pinch of salt, pepper, 1 (big) heaped teaspoon of adjika
- OPTIONAL: add leek and cook for 3 minutes
- Add peppers and carrots (and mushrooms) to mix, cook until all ingredients soften (5-7min)
- OPTIONAL: include tinned vegetables now
- Add 2 big tablespoons of tomato paste (or enough to coat all ingredients), cook on low heat for another 5min. Turn off
- Find a nice big plate and decorate with grated carrot, tomato, yellow pepper slices, lettuce, spring onion and anything else you may have in your fridge
- Put everything on table
- Tear lavash into generous rectangles (table mat size)
- Smear a generous serving of adjika in centre
- Lay out cooked filling in rectangle in centre of lavash
- Add fresh ingredients
- Roll your tBlissito
Lessons in Cultural Awareness
Although quite usual for some of us English speakers, burritos, fajitas, tortillas and tacos are still very exotic for many countries so it is more than totally acceptable to serve this up as a dinner party centre piece.
Please also note that inhabitants of countries of non-Mexican culinary traditions (such as Russia) may not know how to roll a burrito, nor a tBlissito for that matter. So be nice and show your tablemates how its done.
Or youtube it.
Why tBlissitos ?
Tbilissi, the capital of Georgia …
* I bought a tomato from Azerbaijan from the local supermarket yesterday – it was amazing, pulpous, juicy, soft … Good produce makes everything so much better.