Monday, 26 May 2014

Georgian Oyster Mushroom & Rice Pastries

Oyster mushrooms are common in Georgian woodlands and are popular in Georgian cuisine. These delicious mushroom pastries are supposed to be just made with oyster mushrooms, but they can be quite pricey so I've used a mixture. If you're feeling flush then use just oyster mushrooms, if you're not then you can make these with any mushrooms or any mixture of mushrooms. The recipe is adapted from this Georgian Recipe website.

Georgian Oyster Mushroom & Rice Pastries
Adapted from

700g flour
1 cup warm water
1 tbsp dried active yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt

800g oyster mushrooms (or a mixture of any mushrooms)
5 tbsp oil
1 cup cooked white rice (this will require 1/2 cup uncooked rice)
1 large white onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bunch fresh continental parsley, finely chopped

To Make:
1. Whisk the warm water, yeast and sugar together in a small bowl and set aside for 10 minutes until it becomes frothy. Place the flour and salt in a bowl and make a depression in the middle. Pour the frothy yeast mixture in and combine well until you have a thick ball of dough. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm spot for 2 hours, to rise.
2. Finely chop your mushrooms and onion. Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the mushrooms and onion until soft and cooked. In a large mixing bowl combine the cooked mushrooms, cooked rice, crushed garlic and chopped parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. After 2 hours the dough should have about doubled in size. Turn out onto a floured bench top and knead into a smooth ball. If the dough is took sticky, add a touch more flour, if it's too crumbly add a touch more water. Divide your ball of dough into 6 balls. Roll out each ball into a long rectangle shape and divide the filling equally amongst each one.
4. Fold the dough over the filling and pinch together with your fingertips, if the dough is too floury to stick properly, wet the edge with a little water to make it stick. Gently flatten each pastry so that the seam where it is joined is along the top of each one. 
5. Heat a little oil in a non stick fry pan and fry each pastry for 6-8 minutes, turning half way. Serve immediately or you can make in advance an keep warm in a warm oven. 

Makes 6.

This month I'm featuring recipes from Georgia.
Check out my other Georgian recipe posts:

Friday, 23 May 2014

Fennel & Cabbage Tahini Slaw with Chickpeas and Cashews

I call this little creation a 'tahini slaw' - it's essentially a coleslaw but the bulk of the creamy dressing is made from delicious nutritious tahini rather than lots of gluggy and nutritionally deficient mayonnaise. It's versatile, of course, so feel free to make your own adaptations. In this recipe I've used not just cabbage but thinly sliced fennel which gives it a wonderful crisp flavour and I've added a can of chickpeas to bulk it up a bit and turn it into a main event dish rather than a side. If you're just bringing it along to a bbq then you can choose to omit the chickpeas.

This recipe makes enough for 2-3 people to have a big bowl of it for lunch or dinner, or for 4-6 people to have as a side salad.

Fennel & Cabbage Tahini Slaw with Chickpeas and Cashews

1/4 medium green cabbage (you can substitute purple cabbage or a mixture of both)
1/2 large fennel bulb
1 small Spanish onion
1 small granny smith apple
1 400g can of chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup roasted cashews
2 tbsp unhulled tahini
1 tsp mayonniase
1 tsp soy sauce
Juice of small 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
Cracked pepper, to taste
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, washed and halved.

To Make
1. Very thinly slice the cabbage, fennel bulb and Spanish onion and toss together in a bowl. Cut the core out of the apple and cut into thin matchsticks. Add to the salad along with the chickpeas. Once you've added the apple, sprinkle a bit of the lemon juice over the salad to stop the apple going brown while you make the dressing.
2. Combine the tahini, mayonnaise, soy sauce, remaining lemon juice and olive oil in a small bowl or jar. Mix well to combine. It may be very thick at this stage, but don't worry it will thin out as you mix it through the salad. Season to taste with cracked pepper.
3. Add the tahini dressing to the salad and mix thoroughly until the salad is evenly coated with the dressing. Break up the cashews a bit with your hands and toss them in along with the halved cherry tomatoes. Mix well and serve garnished with extra cashews (optional).

Notes: You can use the cherry tomatoes to decorate the top instead of mixing them through if you like. 

Serves 2-3 as a main or 4-6 as a side salad.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Nigvzis Torti (Georgian Walnut Raisin Torte)

This dessert is translated as a torte, generally a torte is a multi layered cake, layered with icing or cream. This is a bit of a different type of torte! It's still multi layered.... but almost all the rest of it is different :) The layers instead of light sweet cake are made of a denser pastry type dough. It's rolled out and layered with crunchy walnuts and super sweet raisins tossed in sugar and cinnamon. The whole thing is wrapped up in the top later of dough like a pie and then glazed with a grape juice syrup. The result is a delicious, crumby tea-cake like dessert which is not too sweet but with bursts of sweetness from the raisins. It was unlike anything that I have ever made or eaten before, truly! Even after years of writing for this blog and experimenting with different cuisines from all over the world - I still stumble upon things which are unlike any other I've made. It's one of the things I love about blogging.

In the end I took to calling it a pie instead of a torte, because of the cute way it's all wrapped up in the pastry. The traditional recipes use green grape juice for sweetener, which is commonly used as a sweetener in Georgian cuisine. In Australia though, I wasn't able to find it. The only grape juice available was red grape juice, which would have had a very different taste and appearance. So, I just blended some green grapes and strained the skins out.

Unless you're a Georgian, this might be quite unlike any recipe you've ever made either - but it's worth it. I thought it was delicious and went a treat with a hot cup of tea. It makes quite a big pie so invite a group of friends around for afternoon tea, or else just halve the recipe :)

Nigvzis Torti (Georgian Walnut Raisin Torte....Pie)

225g vegan margarine
1 cup sugar
1 cup plain or vanilla vegan yoghourt
3 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup green grape juice (I used fresh)

2 cups shelled walnuts
2 cups raisins
1/2 cup of sugar
1 generous tsp ground cinnamon

To Make:
1. Cream together the margarine and 1/2 cup of the sugar in a bowl and then beat in the yoghourt. Add the flour and stir well. Form into a ball of firm dough and then chill for about 5 hours (or overnight).
2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Toast the walnuts in the oven for 5-8 minutes, or until lightly browned (keep your eyes on them!), chop up the walnut and allow them to cool.
3. Toss the cooled walnuts with the remaining filling ingredients until the raisins and walnuts are coated in the cinnamon sugar.
4. Divide the dough into four even pieces (keeping the unused dough in the fridge until you're ready to use it). Roll the first piece into a disc about 20 inches in diameter and place it on a paper lined baking tray. Spread 1/3 of the filling mixture over it, leaving about an inch free around the edges.
5. Do the same with the next 2 portions of dough, and the remaining 2/3 of filling. When you roll out the last portion make it a little larger than the others, as it has to wrap around the whole thing. Place it over the top and tuck the edges in all around the pie, making a neat little dome. Cut five slits in the top to let the steam escape as it cooks. Cook the pie in the oven for 50 minutes. When done, remove from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes while you make the syrup.
6. Combine the grape juice and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a small saucepan and place over a medium heat. Simmer for 4-5 minutes, until a thickish syrup forms. Brush all over the cooked pie and let the whole thing cool to room temperature. 

Makes 1 large pie. Serve with tea!

This month I'm featuring recipes from Georgia.
Check out my other Georgian recipe posts:

Monday, 12 May 2014

Georgian Lobiani (Kidney Bean Bread)

Since in my last post I was chatting away about Georgia and Eurovision, let's chat about it some more. Since now Eurovision 2014 has been broadcast live around the world from the beautiful city of Copenhagen. Sadly, Georgia's entry this year was a little bit too 'unusual' to do very well, and didn't even make it through to the finals. They've never had an entry as their first every entry (Sopho! I loved her!), so we don't need to talk about their entry. But I will mention this year's winner, Conchitta Wurst, because I'm so happy for her right now. Here she is:

I think she is absolutely beautiful, what a stunner! She took Eurovision by storm with her Bond-style ballad "Rise Like a Phoenix". Her inclusion was somewhat controversial, as it was heavily opposed by conservatives Russia, Armerna and Belarus. But she took every piece of criticism and vitriol with elegance and good grace and behaved so much better than all those who abused her. Wonderfully, so many other countries in Europe rallied around to support her, giving her a clear win on the night. I wouldn't say that it was necessarily the best song of the night, but further proof that the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 is not really about the songs, but about the politics and it was wonderful to see most of Europe rally around and show their support for this exquisite 'gender neutral' drag queen. 

Congratulations Conchitta on your amazing win and I'm looking forward to seeing you again in Vienna in 2015. 

Enough about Eurovision until next year, when I'm sure you'll be hearing from me again about it :) 
Continuing in the Georgian theme, here is another delicious dish - also featuring kidney beans! It's a pan fried flatbread filled with kidney beans, but really has the potential to be filled with whatever you like. My partner keeps asking me to make him one filled with "pizza" (i.e. tomato paste, pizza toppings and gooey cheese). It really does have a lot of potential.

Georgian Lobiani (Kidney Bean Bread)

1 cup kidney beans, soaked for 48 hours
3 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp vegan margarine
500g plain flour
14g dried yeast
1/4 tsp salt
200ml warm water

To Make
1. Drain the soaked beans, place in a saucepan and cover with plenty of water and the bay leaves. Boil for 45-60 minutes, or until cooked through. When cooked remove the bay leaves and then drain and transfer to a bowl. While still hot add the crushed garlic and the margarine. Mash up until it has the consistency of mashed potatoes. I left my beans a little chunky but you can make them as smooth as you like.
2. Mix the yeast with the warm water and set aside for 10 minutes, until frothy. Combine 400g flour, salt and yeast mixture in a bowl. Mix by hand until you form a smooth dough, you may need to add more flour if it is too sticky (it shouldn't be sticking to your hands as you knead) or more water if it is too dry (not able to come together in a smooth ball). Place in an oiled mixing bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Leave in a warm place for 1 hour to rise. 
3. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead in the remaining 100g flour. Knead until you have a firm dough. Divide into 2 equal parts and form each into a ball. Flatten each ball out with your fingers (or a rolling pin) to make a 1cm thick circular disk. 
4. Place half of the bean mixture in the middle of each disk. Wrap the edges of the dough around the bean mix and pinch the edges together to seal it in (be careful not to trap any air inside as you do this). Gently flatten out the ball of dough, spreading the bean mixture inside as you do so. You'll end up with two flat disks 2-3cm thick.
5. Gently score the top of each one with a knife. Heat a non stick pan on a medium heat and cook each lobiani for 5-7 minutes on each side, they should be just slightly golden but still pale. Remove from the pan and brush immediately with a little vegan margarine. Serve immediately. Allowing them to cool down and then reheating them can cause them to go very hard and crunchy (which isn't always a bad thing, but not what you're going for!).

Makes 2.

This month I'm featuring recipes from Georgia.
Check out my other Georgian recipe posts:

I entered this dish into the Vegan Virtual Linky Potluck.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Lobio (Georgian Kidney Bean Salad)

I've had a strange fascination with Georgia for some time. Why strange? Because really I don't know anything about the country at all! But, in 2007 they entered Eurovision for the first time with this incredible song (watch it!) by Sopho. I love the Eurovision meets Bjork style, I loved her stunning red dress (which continues it's detail on her back and arm!) and, hey, you can't go wrong when there are men dancing with swords. I loved this song so much that I immediately decided that I loved Georgia and wanted to go there. Such is the powder of Eurovision! So, Georgia has a special place in my heart - even though I know next to nothing about it except that the capital Tbilisi. Sadly, I haven't yet had the chance to travel there to find out more, but recently I got an email from a reader requesting Georgia as a featured country on my world food challenge. I couldn't have been happier, in fact I was so excited by the idea that I moved it up the list in front of some other countries which had been requested earlier (sorry, other countries but the heart wants what the heart wants!).

Just in case you've never heard of this tiny country, here is what it looks like:

So what did I learn about Georgia? Well, one thing was that finding vegetarian dishes was a piece of cake, there was loads of them. So I had a really fun and easy time putting together a savoury menu for Georgia and it was all really delicious. The sweets I found harder, I only found one or two at all on the internet so had a much more limited sweets menu. I'd love to hear from some Georgians if you have a wonderful traditional dessert that I missed!

I also learned that the cornerstone of many of their dishes was walnuts! There were walnuts in everything, sweet and savoury! There also seems to be a lot of kidney beans in the savoury dishes, so I ate my fair share of them this month.

This first recipe I'm sharing with you brings both of those ingredients together, it's a typical Georgian salad called Lobio. It makes a great cold weather salad as well as warm weather, because of the lovely cooked beans and the warming hint of chilli. It's perfect for a potluck but is also great spooned into a salad wrap or piled on your veggie burger, it's just very versatile and a great source of protein.

Lobio (Georgian Kidney Bean Salad)

1 1/2 cups dried kidney beans, soaked for 48 hours and drained
1/2 Spanish onion, finely diced
1 jalapeño chilli, finely minced (you can remove the insides if you want it milder)
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander
1/3 cup walnuts, broken into small pieces
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

To Make
1. Place the kidney beans in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until the beans are just tender. Once cooked, drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside to cool and dry out.
2. While the beans are drying you can prepare all your other ingredients. Combine the Spanish onion, chilli, garlic, coriander, walnuts and kidney beans in a bowl.
3. Place the vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper in a jar, put the lid on and shake until well combined. Pour this dressing over the bean salad and stir well to combine. Adjust seasoning to taste (add more salt, pepper, coriander or garlic to taste).
4. Serve garnished with walnuts and fresh coriander (optional).

Serves 4-6.

This month I'm featuring recipes from Georgia.
Check out my other Georgian recipe posts: