Back when I wrote of my adventures in wild Abkhazia, I talked about shashlyk, spices, cheese, honey, and wine. And of course lodochka (aka Adjaran khachapuri). But there can be more to Abkhazian cuisine. Some time ago, I published a recipe for Honey Cake Gagra with Mandarin and Black Tea. Here is another original recipe that combines many local flavors into a more elaborate dish.
- Yes, there are deer in Abkhazia. I even remember that the driver who picked us up at the Ingur border was a hunter. I suppose that people have got to find a use for all their guns, now that they’ve (sort of) got their independence!
- The idea for a blackberry sauce comes from a sadly unidentified Abkhazian cookbook, though the recipe below is mostly adapted from Michel Roux’s Sauces. I believe the Abkhazian version contained garlic and adjika; I’m keeping it for another time.
- The cheese polenta is called abista in Abkhazian. In Georgian it would be called elardji (it’s particularly popular in Mingrelia). The cornmeal is traditionally white, but yellow polenta works just as well. If you don’t have the courage to make your own cheese, and don’t have a Russian supermarket in your area, you can substitute mozzarella for the sulguni.
6 oz blackberries
1.3 oz sugar
1 oz red wine vinegar
20 oz game or beef stock
1/4 tsp grated orange zest
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 oz sweet red wine
2 oz butter, diced
1 pinch cayenne pepper
- Place the blackberries and sugar into a saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring regularly, until the blackberries collapse into mush.
- Stir in the vinegar, then add the stock, orange zest, and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 25 minutes.
- Add the wine, and simmer for another 5 minutes.
- Pass the sauce through a chinois, and reserve.
- Before serving, reheat, and whisk in the butter. Season with salt and cayenne pepper.
Yields 4 servings
18.5 oz water
5 g salt
4.3 oz polenta
1.3 oz butter
6 oz sulguni (or mozzarella)
black pepper, ground
- Bring the water and salt to a boil in a saucepan. Add the polenta, cover, and cook over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, and adding the butter at midtime.
- When serving, cut the sulguni into cubes or batons, and stick the cheese into the polenta. Finish with a little bit of black pepper.
28 oz cleaned venison loin
9.5 g salt (1.2% weight of the venison)
1.3 oz canola oil
1.3 oz butter, sliced
- Cut the venison loin into 4 portions, and season with salt on all sides.
- In a pan over high heat, sauté the meat in the canola oil until brown on all sides (you’ll probably have to proceed in 2 batches). Remove from the heat, and let rest for a few minutes.
- Transfer the meat to an oven-proof dish, add the butter slices on top, and cook in 250 F oven to the desired doneness. If you like your venison rare, take it out of the oven when the internal temperature reaches 125 F. Let rest for 5 minutes.
- Slice thinly, and serve. You can also mix the juices from the oven dish into the blackberry sauce.