There is a lovely restaurant in the town of Signagi, Georgia, the Pheasant's Tears. It is run by an amazing woman, Ketevan Mindorashvili (Keto to her friends), a passionate chef, the leader of the Georgian Polyphonic Ensemble, and a melodic folk singer and dancer. On my recent visit to Georgia, our group was fortunate to have lunch here accompanied by melodic music and dance.
Lunch was a feast, locally sourced fresh vegetables and meats, and the ever-present kachapuri filled the table with platters bursting with local flavours and the wine flowed freely. The mantra of Keto and the kitchen is local, fresh and Georgian flavours. The lunch was interspersed with live music and traditional dance. we learned about Keto's efforts to revive the music, spending time in London to study historic documents and old records. The dance was lively, again brought back to the country by this troupe after it was banned by the Russians during their invasion. It was a magical afternoon, with amazing food, melodic music and lively dancing. The star was Keto, humble, gracious and so open to talk to. Thank you for a lovely time.
One of the very local ingredients I learned about in Georgia is roasted sunflower oil, called mzesumziris zeti. This translates to someone, or a thing, that gazes at the sun and oil.
It is a lovely oil that is concentrated with nutty flavours that glow on the palate gently.
This is a simple salad that highlights local ingredients. For the fresh greens, Georgians use baby marigold leaves mixed in with other greens in Georgia as part of this salad, which is brought alive by the sweet-tart mulberries, the nutty oil, and the goat's cheese adds creaminess. The salad is light, healthy and refreshing. This is the perfect salad for a lunch or as a light starter.
This is a book I picked up to learn about Georgian cuisine before my trip. It is more of a travel book with only a few recipes, but these are from the best-known chefs and wineries in the country. The book goes into detail about the different regions, cultural sites and things to do, with a few recipes thrown in for good measure.
For more recipes from this book, click here.
3 cups baby mixed lettuces and arugula
5 oz. soft goat's cheese, crumbled or cut into medallions
1 cup mulberries or blackberries
4 tablespoons Georgian roasted sunflower oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper
A pinch or two of chilli powder (optional)
scatter the leaves in a wide bowl or flat platter. Add the cheese and sprinkle the mulberries all over.
Mix the sunflower oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper well. Drizzle over the salad just as you are ready to serve it. Sprinkle with the chilli powder, if using.
Note: If you do not have mzesumziris zeti, you can take a good quality sunflower oil and heat it gently on the stove for 2-3 minutes till it turns a shade darker and use this as a substitute. It is close to the original in flavour, but the original is so much better.