Achma, Georgian Cheese Lasagna

Posted by Florian in Appetizers, Georgian Food, Recipes, tagged with , , , , ,

Achma is a kind of cheese lasagna found in the Adjara and Abkhazia regions, where the crisp top crust contrasts with the tender cheesy layers. Somehow, I’ve eaten more of it in Moscow than in Georgia itself, but here it is in the picture above, next to the pomegranate juice, in a food stall in Abkhazia.

This is more time-consuming to make than it seems: count 2 1/2 hours from start to finish, as the assembly easily takes an hour. Most recipes spread the cheese mixture only on one or two layers and cover the other layers with butter, but I prefer to alternate cheese and butter layers. In Georgia, one’s choice of cheese is generally determined by local production, so feel free to experiment with any combination of rustic cheeses. It’s best to avoid mixing too many different cheeses, though, or the result will have a nondescript, generic cheesy taste that will make you regret you tried so hard. Here, I’m using two cheeses with complementary flavors: a tangy brynza (Bulgarian feta would be a good replacement) and a rich Ossau-Iraty (a firm sheep’s milk cheese from the French Pyrénées).

Georgian Cuisine - Achma

Yields one 9″ x 13″ pan

11 oz flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
2 oz milk
3 oz butter, very soft
8 oz brynza (or Bulgarian feta), coarsely crumbled
8 oz Ossau-Iraty, coarsely grated

  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment, add the flour, salt and eggs, and mix over low speed until homogeneous. Add the milk, and mix for another 2 minutes. Form a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for at least 30 minutes.
  • Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Using a pasta machine, roll each piece to the next-to-finest setting. Grease a 9″ x 13″ Pyrex pan with some of the butter. Cook one pasta sheet in salted boiling water for 1 minute, shock in ice water, pat dry with paper towels, then arrange into the dish to form 1 layer, cutting as necessary. Cover the layer with 1/4 of the butter, spread with a knife or an offset spatula. Cook and arrange another pasta sheet the same way, and top with 1/4 of the brynza and Ossau-Iraty. Repeat this procedure 3 more times.
  • Bake the dish in a 400 F oven for 30 minutes, then finish under the broiler until brown, for 1 or 2 minutes.
  • Let cool for a couple minutes and serve.

Georgian Cuisine - Achma

Here is another variation for the holiday season! The butternut squash pasta dough and butter are inspired by a recipe for butternut squash cavatelli by Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot, found here.

Roasted butternut squash
Yield varies

1 butternut squash

  • Pierce the squash with a knife in a few places, then roast in a 350 F oven for an hour. Let cool for 30 minutes.
  • Cut the squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out and reserve the seeds and pulp. Remove the skin, and reserve 1 lb of the flesh. Use the rest of the flesh for another recipe.

Butternut squash pasta dough
Yields enough dough for one 9″ x 13″ pan

1 lb roasted butternut squash flesh
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp honey
1/2 oz butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
10 oz flour

  • Mix the butternut squash, garam masala, nutmeg, honey and butter with a fork. Transfer to an oven-safe dish, and bake in a 325 F oven for an hour. Let cool for an hour.
  • Transfer to a blender and process until smooth. Measure 8 oz of the purée, and transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment. Add the egg and salt and mix over low speed, then incorporate the flour in 2 additions, and mix for 3 minutes.
  • Form a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for at least 30 minutes.

Georgian Cuisine - Achma

Butternut squash butter
Yields 2 1/2 to 3 oz

4 oz butter
4 oz butternut squash seeds and pulp

  • Place the butter and butternut squash seeds and pulp into a small saucepan, and cook in a 325 F oven for 1 hour.
  • Pass through a chinois and reserve.

Butternut squash achma
Yields one 9″ x 13″ dish

butternut squash pasta dough
butternut squash butter, melted
8 oz brynza (or Bulgarian feta), coarsely crumbled
8 oz Ossau-Iraty, coarsely grated

  • Assemble and bake as the regular achma above.

Georgian Cuisine - Achma