Bassa’s guide to Georgian cuisine (part 1 – Georgian ‘Snickers’)

At this time of year we all eat more than we usually do – I know I do!

Fortunately, I live in a country that has wonderful food.

In ‘Bassa’s Guide to Georgian Cuisine’ I will show you how to make some of the most popular and delicious Georgian dishes.

De will do the cooking. Tall person will take the photographs and the little person and me will do the eating!

Our first dish is called Churchkhela and combines two of Georgia’s favorite foods – grapes and nuts.

Churchkhela is a long string of nuts that has been dipped repeatedly in a concentrated fresh grape juice. It is delicious and nutritious and often called the Georgian ‘Snickers’!

You can see churchkhelas hanging in long strands in this picture taken in the market.

This is how to make it:

Ingredients for 2 churchkhelas: 1 1/2 quarts of white grape juice, 3/4 cup of sugar, 1 cup of flour, 40 walnut halves.

  • Thread a needle with a 30-inch length of heavy-duty thread. With the flat side of the nuts facing up, thread 20 walnut halves onto the thread, then thread the remaining walnut halves flat side down.
  • Cut the thread from the needle and knot the ends. Then push half of the walnuts to one end of the thread, leaving about 6 inches of thread in between the 2 portions of nuts. You will have 2 separate strands of walnut halves hanging flat side up. The walnut strands should be dried in the sun before the next stage of the process to prevent the growth of mould.
  • In a pot, reduce the grape juice over low heat for about 3 hours, progressively stirring in the sugar.
  • Whisk in the flour [to avoid lumps, place the flour in a large bowl and progressively pour in the liquid while mixing] and return to a boil. The resulting mixture is called tatara.
  • Find a board about 4 inches wide and suspend it between two chairs. Place newspaper on the floor underneath (to catch the drips).
  • Pick up the walnuts by the middle of the thread and slowly dip them into the tatara, using a spoon to coat the topsides, if necessary. Slowly pull them up from the juice and carefully drape the thread over the prepared board so that the walnut strands hang down over the newspaper.
  • Allow the nuts to dry for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the coating is slightly tacky. Then return the nuts to the juice, which has been kept warm, and repeat the dipping process. Allow to dry again for 20 minutes or so. The drier the coating, the better the next layer will adhere.
  • Repeat the dipping process, 8 to 10 times, or until the nuts are completely coated. Leave to dry for 3 to 4 days, until the strands are no longer sticky to the touch.
  • Wrap in towels and allow to mature for 2 to 3 months. The churchkhelas will develop a thin layer of powdery sugar.

It sounds like a lot of effort and a long wait but they are worth it!

I must confess, we can’t wait that long so we buy them from the market!

Remember to pull out the string before you eat your churchkhela.