This casserole is a celebration of vegetables! Look at the list of ingredients. Their variety is stunning! That’s why the complexity of this dish flavors conquers the taste buds of vegetarians and carnivores alike. Just like any other layered dish, benefits from being cooked in advance, set in a refrigerator for a few hours and reheated portioned right before serving. It helps to develop flavors and keep colorful layers presentable.
How authentic is this shashlyk? Well, let’s see. Instead of traditional mangal, I use shichirin and instead of grapevine — binchotan charcoals from Japan. While true Georgian shashlik is made of non-aged lamb, I choose conditioned lamb from New Zeland. Finally, the marinade is based on local herbs, vegetables, and spices. I couldn’t even find a good substitute for young Georgian wine and decided to use sake for its cleaner taste.
I prefer slowly cooked beef shanks for plain khashlama and leg of lamb for festive version. A slow cooker/crock pot is the most convenient device to make this dish. Otherwise, assemble vegetables and meat layers in an iron pot, start on the stove to bring water to boiling and finish in the 300F oven by slowly cooking for another 3-4 hours. There is also a version when meat is cooked first; then it is layered with vegetables in small ceramic or clay pots and cooked in the oven to serve khashlama individually portioned. In this case, it only takes 1-1.5 hours in the oven — just to cook vegetables.
This recipe is part of Pizza Party cooking class and tasting event.
Khinkali (Georgian: ხინკალი) is a juicy Georgian dumpling, filled with seasoned minced meat (lamb or beef + pork). Minced onions, red chili pepper, and cumin are always part of the recipe, while herbs (cilantro and parsley) are optional. Khinkali is supposed to be eaten with hands (no utensils). It is picked up by the top of the dumpling (aka kudi or “hat”) and turned upside down. First, you bite a small hole to suck all the meat juices trapped inside. Than, you can eat the rest of the dumpling, except for the part you’ve been using as a holder, the “hat.”
This recipe/variation is based on Zhengyalov Hats, a specialty of Karabakh region in Armenia. “The main purpose of its preparation is to unite once again to make a family meal together, to talk about all pressing matters, to exchange news.” To make Zhengyalov Hats, unleavened dough is rolled as thin as paper, stuffed with a mixture of 10-20 different varieties of wild and garden chopped greens, and cooked on hot saj. It is very important to create a well-balanced mix of greens and herbs. Cheese and fried onions are sometimes added.
Do you prefer fresh or roasted tomatoes with burrata? Why? For a long time I was sure fresh tomatoes are the best. Until today. Roasted tomatoes concentrate their flavor and change their texture. They become tender soft, just like burrata. Add basil leaves and flowers, chives flowers, thyme, EV olive oil, and fresh crusty baguette. That’s it.
Middle East and Mediterranean spring dishes feature sour (unripe, with soft white pit) stone fruit as their favorite seasonal souring agents — almonds, apricots, and plums. Combined with fresh greens and spices, they magically transform meat and poultry stews into refreshing flavorful dishes. This recipe is a modified version of Chakapuli (Georgian: ჩაქაფული), a Georgian stew made with onions, lamb chops, dry white wine, tarragon leaves, unripe cherry plums (tkemali) or tkemali sauce, fresh herbs (parsley, mint, dill, cilantro), garlic and salt. It is considered to be one of the most popular dishes in Georgia. I replaced green plums with green apricots.