Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 23 June 2019
I first came across delicious Georgian recipes in the brilliant book 'World Vegetarian Classics' and was really keen to try more. However, it turns out cuisine from the Caucasus is really heavy on meat, pastry and dairy (almost every recipe has butter or clarified butter, kefir, milk, various yoghurts and cheeses etc.), which I'm not a big fan of. That's not a fault of the book, but I wish I'd known beforehand.
The book seems designed to be as hard to use as possible. You can't dip in and quickly find a recipe you like the look of, but have to trawl through every single page in detail to get an idea of the recipes, due to weird chapter names, weird recipe names, unhelpful recipe descriptions and lack of pictures (there are pictures of about half the recipes, and many pictures of random people, rustic scenery and arty close-ups of ingredients). Chapters have names like 'Pain, be gone!' (which is mainly soups), about half the recipe names are just in a foreign language with no explanation, e.g. Kharcho, Kuchmachi, Ostryi, and the descriptions often explain very little about what the recipe is or how to make it, instead telling you random stuff: "Nana also makes really excellent food and possesses one of the most serene, beautiful faces I have ever encountered; gentle but strong, as if out of a painting." The intro to Khash, a horrible-looking brown gruel with shins and tripe in it, opens with 'Stop gawping."
It is both complicated and shallow, presenting challenging recipes that require you to e.g. culture your own specialty yoghurt, make chicken stock from scratch, forage for wild garlic and young pine cones, but lacks clear information on how to do these things, e.g. how to 'bruise' a chilli? A really experienced chef might find these easy, but for me, it feels like less of a recipe book than a pretty presentation of the food and culture.
Even recipes I thought would be quick and easy, like muffins, require you to make 3 other recipes in advance to use as ingredients, and the title ingredient, pine cones, is listed as optional! You can't just make occasional recipes from the book either, it kind of requires you to either eat it every day or open your own Georgian restaurant, otherwise you'll end up with kilos of decomposing clarified butter and Matsoni yoghurt in the fridge.
There is no indication anywhere of how long the recipes take (probably because they take hours), and although specialty online shops are listed for ingredients, there were many I couldn't track down. There are also very few recommendations for which dishes go together, which would be useful for meal planning.
Glad I bought the Kindle version which was only a few quid!
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