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Edible souvenirs from Georgia and more – in my kitchen

April 5, 2014

A quick peek in my kitchen as I staggered back from Georgia with a bulging suitcase so lots of new things to share with you this month.

The first place I wanted to visit when I got to Tbilisi was the market – and I wasn’t disappointed. Strolling through a labyrinthine arrangement of food stalls piled high with fresh vegetables, pickles, spices, sauces, meat, bread  butted up against collections of ironmongery, car parts and an eclectic mix of other random items, I was in foodie heaven. Most stalls were outside under flimsy covers but we entered one dimly lit hall which had piles of cheese on one side and tables of offal on the other. But enough …. a market post to follow soon.

The way this honey thickly trickled into the jar, ladled from the churn, makes me confident that it is raw honey direct from the hives (transported in a pickle jar).

Not salami or candles. These churchkhela (pronounced church-ah-la) are strings of nuts dipped in reduced grape must. A great way to preserve and reduce waste at the same time. The different colours are due to different grape varieties used. Slices were served for breakfast and sometimes at the end of meals when were in Georgia. It’s not too sweet, just fruity – I love how the stallholder seems to have used some Maths homework sheets to wrap them up.

A feature of Georgian cuisine is the fruit and nuts used copiously. Plum sauce is used as a condiment and to cook meat in. Some stalls used old Pepsi bottles for their sauce but I like this one. Not sure why I brought home miniatures of Georgian brandy – but I visited the place where it is made and got carried away.

Georgian winesNot quite in my kitchen (the worst place to store wine) but the Georgian wines I brought home had to be included. Several are qvevri wines – made in large clay pots buried underground and left in prolonged contact with the grape skins, seeds and stalks. The ManDili wine is the first from two female Georgian winemakers – I met the delightful Tea Melanashvili, one half of the duo. Other natural winemakers producing small quantities of lovingly made qvevri wines are Ramaz Nikoladze (his wine is second from the left) and twins Gia and Gela Gamtkisulashvilis of Twins Wine Cellar – we drank wine straight from a newly opened qvevri there. Sadly the five bottle import limit into Dubai meant I had to leave a lot behind (including wine bottles with my name on and the rather lethal ‘chacha’, a kind of grappa); OK so I forgot how to count when packing. Much more about this experience…soon…

The tiny purple flowers on this thyme  summer savoury bought at the Farmers’ Market decorate my kitchen and will scent a roast chicken….

organic veg from farmers market dubai…and here’s the rest of the organic, local veg I bought there on Friday.

The newly opened Fortnum and Mason next to Dubai Mall with a fabulous view of the Dubai fountains is top of my list of places to visit next for afternoon tea. The goodie bags ran out at the media launch so I nearly fell off my chair when they gave me a hamper. Yes I know how lucky I am.

Another feature of Dubai (expat) life is that people move a lot and when clearing out their cupboards often think “Sally’s into food she’d like the contents of our pantry”! This enormous tin of Halal confit duck came to me that way; thinking of cassoulet even though the temperatures have soared here, you can’t beat a bit of bean-laden, sausagey comfort food (very un-Halal).

Elder teen asked me to make a jar of lemon curd for her friend’s birthday present (he loves it) before I left. Luckily the recipe makes two jars (and I kept the one in the pretty Pelagonia jar).

Something awful happened before I left for Georgia – I’m not ready, and may never be, to share it in this space – but I did some comfort shopping and with me it’s always in the cook book section of Kinokuniya. Diana Henry’s latest is about lighter, healthier foods and after feasting in Georgia it’ll be used A LOT.

This pot of red wine vinegar is a permanent fixture in my kitchen. It contains a “Mother” and I feed it with any left over red wine so that none goes to waste. For those who comprehend the concept of left over wine, more details about how to make your own here…

That’s all for now. Pop over to see what’s in Celia’s kitchen (at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial) as well as links to a whole host of other kitchens.

What’s in your kitchen this April?

  1. April 5, 2014 2:33 pm

    Absolutely gorgeous photos!

  2. sarahhedonista permalink
    April 5, 2014 3:03 pm

    Lovely! Can’t wait to hear all about Georgia!

    • April 5, 2014 3:49 pm

      Need to have a gossip too 🙂

  3. April 5, 2014 3:28 pm

    Georgia now on the bucket list! Want more details, Sally, even as i count down to London this Thursday and a food marathon that will include Borough Market!

    • April 5, 2014 3:49 pm

      Have fun in London. Read it on your blog? 🙂

  4. April 5, 2014 4:32 pm

    Churchkhela now tops my list of world’s most unique food items! Will be anxious to hear more about those Georgian wines as you open them . . . Salud! Oh, and I’m all about comfort shopping . . . did some of my own just yesterday. Hang in. 😃

    • April 5, 2014 4:56 pm

      Wish I could share my tasting with you. The wines are a very different experience. And wish I could post some churchkhela to you too. Hanging in – getting away helped a bit.

  5. April 5, 2014 5:18 pm

    I spent an hour in the Co-Op the other day sourcing weird but wonderful things to line my cupboards with. Great review 🙂

    • April 5, 2014 5:27 pm

      You should join in with In My Kitchen – it’s a great way of connecting with people around the world including the lovely Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.

  6. April 5, 2014 7:21 pm

    That market is just fab! Marigold salt? Is that calendula salt? What do you use it for? I know that many people use the golden calendula petals as a substitute for saffron. I also got Diana Henry’s book recently – really great.

  7. April 6, 2014 1:41 am

    Living in Australia, quarantine restrictions make it nigh on impossible to bring food back into the country from exotic destinations. Enjoy the extension to your holiday

    • April 6, 2014 10:02 am

      Such a shame – I love edible souvenirs more than anything.

  8. April 6, 2014 6:53 am

    G’day! I really enjoyed your post today and thank you for allowing me to learn something new as I never had heard of churchkhela!
    Cheers! Joanne

  9. April 6, 2014 7:49 am

    Gorgeous photos, you’ve given me the Georgia travel bug! And I did not know I can make my own red wine vinegar…!

    • April 6, 2014 10:01 am

      Look for vinegar with bits at the bottom – it’s often the magic spark to get it all going. We can’t buy wine vinegar here so it’s handy.

  10. April 6, 2014 8:20 am

    Like LadyRedSpecs I’m also envious of all you can take home from your overseas jaunts. I’ve had to completely unpack my bags on two of my last three trips back to Australia, so the risk of bringing anything slightly dodgy just isn’t worth it. I’ve seen so many people raving about Diana Henry’s new book – will have to add it to my list. Hope you’re doing OK after the awful thing. xxxx

    • April 6, 2014 10:00 am

      To someone who returns laden with cheese from the UK that sounds like a nightmare. I did live in Saudi Arabia for 5 years where all your luggage is checked to do empathise. Time does heal but it’s slow.

  11. mynappytales permalink
    April 6, 2014 8:43 am

    Interesting churchkhela, first time I’ve seen one.

    • April 6, 2014 9:59 am

      Really unusual aren’t they.

  12. April 6, 2014 9:33 am

    So many treasures you found to bring home!

    • April 6, 2014 9:59 am

      Not enough room for all unfortunately

  13. April 6, 2014 11:08 am

    Hope you’re ok, hon. x How intriguing are those churchkhela! I’ve never heard or seen anything like them! Over here we get a French blue cheese wrapped in grape must, but that’s the closest thing I can think of. And can I just say, your organic fruit and veg selection is arranged beautifully – like a still art photo! 🙂

  14. April 6, 2014 1:43 pm

    A wonderful place to visit! What fabulous food…



  15. April 6, 2014 4:09 pm

    what an interesting kitchen – those nuts in grape must are the most intriguing – I thought salami and then candles when I saw them so I laughed when you said they were neither. Your trip to georgia and your markets look intriguing – sorry to hear about you needing comfort shopping – but it does look like a fine choice of comfort reading

  16. andreamynard permalink
    April 7, 2014 1:12 am

    Such an exciting post – visiting Georgia for a start, and that market looks wonderful. I’m loving Diana Henry’s latest too, cooking my way through it in fact. Love the goodies you selected to bring back and can’t wait to hear more about it.

    • April 7, 2014 1:00 pm

      Interested to know what you’ve cooked from it Andrea…

  17. April 7, 2014 7:58 am

    Thanks for posting about your Georgia visit – I have had the churchkhela! My friend from Georgia brought some home with her when she visited and I loved it! Your photos are lovely!

  18. April 7, 2014 8:01 am

    Sally, I’m sending hugs and positive thoughts for what ever bad thing happened to you xox I’ve never heard the term qvevri before so I shall look forward to learning more about it 🙂

    • April 7, 2014 1:02 pm

      Feeling like a bit of a qvevri expert now – especially since I went to the first ever qvevri museum! Thanks for your kind thoughts Tandy – much appreciated. Time will help.

  19. April 7, 2014 3:49 pm

    Ha ha ha ….’For those who comprehend the concept of left over wine’. If only you could have used the wine at customs to create a Georgian Mother. Oh well! I like the look of the nuts in grape must. I used to buy them at a Greek newsagent in Melbourne but they sold up. Great tour Sally. Enjoy that hamper, you lucky thing!

    • April 7, 2014 5:13 pm

      Don’t worry – the spare bottles went to a good home before I left Georgia. I’m sure people are making toasts with the chacha as we speak!

  20. April 7, 2014 9:33 pm

    Thanks so much for visiting and commenting – your site is so interesting! I just love it 🙂

    • April 7, 2014 10:15 pm

      You’re most welcome – and thanks for your kind comment too.

  21. April 8, 2014 5:08 pm

    Hope all is well with you Sally. So many fabulous and interesting things in your kitchen. Churchkhela – never hear of them before. Lovely learning some thing new.
    Have a beautiful day.
    🙂 Mandy xo

    • April 9, 2014 8:00 am

      Thanks Mandy – things look brighter today.

  22. April 8, 2014 10:30 pm

    What a collection. I love the nuts covered in grape must. Yum. And the savoury….looks amazing.

    • April 9, 2014 7:58 am

      Planning a Georgian feast for friends so keeping the churchkhela until we meet 🙂

  23. April 9, 2014 10:19 am

    II am a big fan of edible souvenirs too. The market in Georgia sounds fascinating – looking forward to hearing more about it. I feel like an idiot but I didn’t know you could bring wine into Dubai?!

    • April 9, 2014 11:41 am

      We are limited to five bottles (you can buy on the way in at the airport, duty free as you probably know and even order for collection from Le Clos). I know alcohol is strictly regulated but Dubai has more flexible rules than some US states 🙂

  24. April 11, 2014 5:14 pm

    Sally, the descriptions of your trip made me feel like I was tagging along and peeking over your shoulder… thank you for sharing your food and experiences of Georgia! Your Farmers Market photo is so beautiful, too, and I could practically smell the summer savory. I do hope your session in the cookbook section helped relieve whatever awful thing happened before you traveled. Take care.

  25. April 13, 2014 10:06 pm

    Beautiful photos! I know so little about Georgia but just this post has gotten me much more interested in someday traveling there!

  26. April 14, 2014 7:03 am

    I think I need to go to Georgia – can’t wait to hear more about it. I’m also an expat and I know exactly what you mean about when people leave. The last person to gave gifted me 2kg of sunflower seeds!!! Too strange.
    Your stash from the organic market made me smile – I’m never that organised when I get home from a shop:)

  27. April 14, 2014 5:44 pm

    Wow – I read that practically open mouthed as the post went on. No goody bag so a hamper instead – OMG!! Those nuts aka churchkhela – I have never seen before and that honey looks amazing. Left over wine is never an issue in my house!! Hoping that you are getting over what you have to – time is a marvellous healer. xx

  28. April 24, 2014 7:44 pm

    Thans for this lovely cool post, I learned a lot. Cool pics too. 😀

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