The kitchen is the central focal point in our home around which all of us are orbiting eternally… much like the sun in our solar system!
We cook everything at home – Bengali recipes picked up from my mother or mother-in-law, friends, various blogs and different social media platforms, the multiple cookbooks that I have collected over the years, much of which are signed from the authors and chefs who have penned them… and last but not the least, food inspired by our travels. Ever since we became evolved bakers (we imply the Z-Sisters and Lady M, while the Bearded Biker and I are mostly into hands-on cooking, however elaborate it may be), it was time to transcend beyond simple breads… and boundaries.
Making Acharuli, the stunning boat shaped Khachapuri or Georgian cheese-bread at home was highly thrilling. It was a collaborative project between Big Z and Lady M and the outcome was not only successful but soul-satisfying. Khachapuris are cheese-filled breads and are shaped in various ways. Traditionally, the cheese that is used is a regional cheese called sulguni. The acharuli khachapuris originated from the Adjaran region in Georgia. Over and above the generous cheese-filling in each bread-boat, a big blob of butter and an egg yolk sat right in the middle!
You can find the Acharuli recipe in www.foodemag.com, the food and travel website that I am a co-founder of. The recipe has been shared by Alice Feiring, an American journalist and author who visited Georgia in 2011 and wrote the book ‘For the Love of Wine’. The recipe uses shredded haloumi as a substitute for the regional cheese sulguni (the author suggests that you could also try mozzarella) and crumbled feta cheese.
My family tasted their first acharuli in Telavi, Georgia’s wine region Kakheti. It was my second visit to Georgia, hence already a self-proclaimed connoisseur of Georgian food. Our guide led us through the diverse cultural and culinary heritage of Georgia over lunch in a restaurant that overlooked the beautiful Caucasus range. We learnt about the Adjaran region from where the acharuli originated, lay in the coast of Black Sea and the ethnic group Lazis inhabiting the region were mainly sailors. The shape of the acharuli – the cheese filling and the egg yolk represented the boat, sea and the sun respectively!
If you are confident with your dough-making skills, making acharuli at home shouldn’t be very difficult. Our acharulis turned out to be exactly how we had tasted in Georgia. They had to be eaten immediately out of the oven with the egg yolk staring bright yellow and still intact. The mission, as I had learnt in Georgia, was to make a gooey mess as you stirred the egg yolk in the piping hot filling of cheese. In our case, by the time the entire family assembled at the table, the egg seemed slightly cooked. This turned out to be quite a boon in disguise. As Big Z pointed out, it was better to avoid eating raw food at the moment.
Tasting Acharuli in Georgia
There are many regional variations of khachapuris and one of our best food memories in Georgia are from a roadside family restaurant in Pasanauri, We didn’t taste acharuli there, instead, drooled over another type of khachapuri – Pkhlovana. Filled with salty Ossetian cheese and beetroot leaves, the pkhlovana khachapuris were fried crispy in sunflower oil. We visited Georgia during spring and what a sight to behold all around. Flowers bloomed everywhere, specially cherry blossoms. We randomly stopped to buy sweet cherries, plums, peaches and other fruits sold by the countryside. At Telavi, we made our wishes as we hugged a 900-year old plane tree. The Giant Plane Tree was the oldest plane tree in Georgia and amongst one of the many fauna wonders that the country flaunted during spring.
Saving the best for the last – in our last night in Georgia in Tbilisi, we came across a giant Acharuli in the popular Georgian fast-food chain called Samikitno. It had three egg yolks on top of the generous cheese-filling and had been appropriately named the ‘Titanic Acharuli’! The acharulis that we made at home may not have been as giant as the one in Tbilisi, they could be if we wanted them to be. The successful outcome, however, is in itself a giant step in our evolution in bread making at home!
Hope my food story inspires you to explore or revisit different countries through their cuisines, from your kitchen and home!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
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Disclaimer: This isn’t a sponsored post, nor are there any affiliated links for any of the brands that may have been mentioned in this blogpost. Our Georgia vacation was self-paid. The subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and all images are from my personal album. While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts.