16-12-2017

A book review of “Supra – A feast of Georgian cooking”

In my house, the recipes that reign supreme are those of Ottolenghi. They’re insanely intimidating at first given the ingredient list, but they’re not actually that hard to make. Once you’ve sourced the ingredients (Yotam apparently sends his initial recipes to a woman in Wales to test out how hard this) then you’ve got them and your home menu rises to three stars.

In a great many ways, what Ottolenghi has crafted with his dishes is very similar to what you find in traditional Georgian dishes. They can have spice and ingredient lists that will have you scratching your head til your hair falls out (blue fenugreek comes to mind) but at their core, nothing is terribly difficult about Georgian food preparation. There are never soufflés than can fall or cream that will emulsify if whisked just one two many times. At worst, it just requires time and well, passed-on knowledge. Thankfully for those of us without Georgian family, I’m thrilled that a guide to these delicious destinations has arrived called, “Supra – A feast of Georgian cooking” by Tiko Tuskadze.

While I normally cover wine books in this space, I’m bringing up this book as, having traveled the length of breadth of the country, I found that food and wine were so intermingled, there’s no separating them and you need to know about both. There has been a bumper crop of books on Georgian cooking this year. In some ways this is a shame as I’m sure it’s the reason that there wasn’t a single Georgia book that appeared on the André Simon Awards as everyone is just a bit overloaded. But, suffice to say, if you want a book with tested and go-to recipes, this is the one.

It’s not the beautiful production of the layout and photos that makes the book what it is. It’s the fact that, much like Yotam Ottolenghi, Tiko has two restaurants called, “Little Georgia” in London and so the recipes have come about via a natural selection and evolution. While Tiko is Georgian and she benefits from having one grandmother who was a masterful cook, she’s spent the last couple of decades living in the UK and has worked to make proper, tasty Georgia dishes outside the country. This is no small feat.

Georgian recipes are extremely personal and familiar which is why this book is so crucial in that it allows some degree of normalization to what is a vast sea of interpretation. I visited Tiko when in London and she’s an interesting individual who is still very much Georgian but the imprint of London definitely shows. Her path to this came about rather organically as she took over the restaurant in Hackney back in 2003 from an English fellow which had started to see a good local following.

Slowly the business grew and she now has two restaurants. The secret to their success, in addition to Tiko playing the most excellent host is the fact that the language you hear in the kitchen is Georgian and the dishes are made by people who understand them. All of this is translated extremely well into the book and the recipes do indeed work in addition to looking pretty. I’m especially chuffed to finally have a reliable adjika recipe as I absolutely adore this heady, dizziness-inducing spice a great deal.

Of course I have my nitpicks about it such as the fact that a blend of mozzarella and feta is not the same as the sulguni cheese found in Georgia and used with great abandon in such dishes as my binge-go-to, the khachapuri. But these are small quibbles as where on earth are you going to find sulguni in the UK or the US? Thus adaptations need to be made to be as truthful to the original while being able to actually make the dish on foreign soils.

So, if you want a definitive guide to the wines, I will shamelessly self-promote and say that “Georgia: A guide to the cradle of wine” is waiting for you. While we make talk a great deal about the food, if you want a definitive guide to the dishes and how to prepare them, pick up Tiko’s “Supra – A feast of Georgian cooking“.

***/***

WINES

Ancestral Wine Cellar - Khikhvi 2014
First harvest of Khikhvi. Light apricot notes, peach skin, lemon peel. Citric in the mouth, fresh, lively acidity, vibrant. Very holistic, full and deliciously good.
100% Khikhvi · 12% · 30GEL
95 3 Stars

Petriaant Marani - Khikhvi 2015
Bruised red apple, touch of lemon peel, limestone minerality, and some white pepper notes at the back of it. High acidity and full in the mouth. Luscious, involving, elegant wine.
100% Khikhvi · 14% · 25GEL
94 3 Stars

Domaine Augustin - Adéodat Blanc 2016
Lemon and white peach, strong kick of salinity, and toasted notes. Very fleshy and full on the palate, peach notes more prominent as well as Meyer lemon, medium plus acidity and a lengthy finish.
100% Grenache Gris · 14.5% · 20EUR
93 2 Stars

AA Badenhorst - Secateurs Red Blend 2012
Forest bramble with ripe red fruit, touches of cherry, ripe red plum, tiny bit of prune, cumin, anise, black licorice, wet cement mineral note, underlying fig jam. Crisp medium plus acidity, medium tannins, medium plus length, medium alcohol, overall medium plus body that’s ripe and lively but super fresh and balanced at the same time. Bit of rugged wildness to it but doesn’t get out of hand. Easy to drink but with just enough underlying complexity so that it stays interesting.
56% Syrah 27% Cinsaut 6% Grenache 4% Cabernet Sauvignon 7% "Others" · 13.5% · 12EUR
93 2 Stars

Domaine Treloar - Motus 2015
Dark ruby, minor rim. Big, mighty bouquet of red cherry and other brambly forest fruit, vanilla, almond blossom, orange peel, and cocoa. Rich and full on the palate with a wealth of tannins still integrating, leading into a crunchy, lingering finish.
80% Mourvèdre 10% Syrah 10% Grenache · 14% · 14EUR
93 2 Stars

Terroir Sense Fronteres - Guix Vermell 2017
Crisp red cherry fruit, touch of spice, flecks of pepper, baking spice, compacted, wet earth. Delicate on the palate, stays fresh, surprising high wealth of tannins, long finish.
100% Grenache · 13% · 250EUR
93+ 3 Stars

Tchotiashvili - Khikhvi 2014
Apricot, yellow peach, orange peel, and a touch of honey. Quite complex aromatically. Orchard fruit much more prevalent in the mouth with young apricot notes. Rich and elegant, touch of astringency in the finish.
100% Khikhvi · 13.1% · 28GEL
93+ 3 Stars

Domaine of the Bee - Cuvée 2015
Ruby with minor garnet rim. Rich red fruits with an underpinning of ripe plum, orange peel, licorice, cocoa. Broad, round tannins with a touch of toast and sweet cocoa in a long finish. Manages to stay very light on the palate despite the higher alcohol.
50% Grenache 50% Carignan · 15% · 25EUR
93 2 Stars

Aquila del Torre - Primaluce 2015
Bruised yellow apple, bit of fig compote, chalky mineral notes, and hazelnut. Light oxidized touches that work to embellish the wine. Rich palate that carries lovely texture with the age of the wine.
100% Sauvignon Blanc · 13.5%
93 2 Stars

Lis Neris - Picol 2017
Lemon citric notes and peel, prominent toasted aspect, apple blossom, wet mineral notes. Wide on the palate with a medium plus acidity and long finish.
100% Sauvignon Blanc · 14%
92 2 Stars