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“.