‘50 delicacies on Earth’ is the first international cookbook for and by the international students of Pécs. Throughout 50 recipes we travel around the globe, getting a taste of the different cultures and hearing the food-related stories behind the foreign faces at our university. Not only a unique experience for us as we meet with exotic tastes and unfamiliar textures, but also for the chefs introducing their country’s cuisine to Pécs. Ana Nikabadze, a 24-year-old MA International Studies student, brings us on a journey to her home country, Georgia.
Why did you decide to participate in this project?
When I saw the email about this project, I was very sceptical at first. I thought that it would just be something small, but soon I realised we were actually part of something huge and unique. The experience was really amazing, and it became very widely promoted, it must be really something the university can rely on!
This is one of the main reasons I love this city, the multiculturalism and the opportunities that are given to the international students.
Similarly with this project; I realised it was a chance of a lifetime, because with this written story I became part of the history of the University of Pécs forever! I left a mark of my small country, which is really an honour for me. Georgia is a very small country with only 4 million people, and I always have this kind of intention and ambition to promote my country here in Hungary, which was also the main reason why I sent the recipe.
I am very proud that of the 90 applications that were sent in, one of the 50 chosen recipes was mine!
What was the recipe you sent in and why did you choose this one?
Hachapuri (also written as Khachapuri) is a baked savoury dish made with cheese and eggs.
It is a very important dish in Georgia because of its story and symbols, and it was recently acknowledged as part of the UNESCO World Heritage of Georgia.
The type of Hachapuri I baked, called the Adjarian Hachapuri, originates from a region on the west coast of Georgia called Adjara. The people from this region were the masters of sailing, and when the husbands were going to sail, the wives were waiting at home with a Hachapuri. The boat-formed bread refers back to this, the cheese is the sea and the yellow egg yolk in the middle represents the sun.
What is your personal connection to this dish?
Hachapuri is baked differently in every region, but I chose this variation as it is the most popular, and from the same region as I am from. Another type of example is the Imeruli Hachapuri, this one is closed and the ingredients are stuffed inside the dough. Another type is stuffed with cheese as well, but you put egg and cheese on top. These are the three major variations, but the Adjarian Hachapuri looks the most beautiful!
Since I was a child, we always made this Hachapuri when we are celebrating something, so this dish is connected to the best memories of my childhood.
For instance, we make this at Easter time, or at Christmas time (the orthodox Christmas, which is the 7th of January). This is a big celebration at home because the whole family comes together in my home and we bake this dish together, with many others.
Do you have any useful tips or tricks for people trying to cook your dish?
As you will read in the recipe, when you make Hachapuri you have to be delighted, if prepared happily, the dough will be airy, otherwise it will reflect your mood and become heavy.
Before preparing Hachapuri, first you should read the story behind the dish, understand by heart what is written, and be ready for it because it is really meant to be an experience.
Measurements are not that important while cooking this dish, so you don’t have to follow the recipe precisely, just cook it from your heart and add the ingredients the way you feel it.
Some exclusive information; if you want to change the ingredients, you can!
In Georgia we have 150 types of cheese,
which we call farmers cheese, but if you don’t have the chance to use this type of cheese, you can use a mix of mozzarella and feta cheese instead. This dish can adapt itself to the Hungarian ingredients very well, so it is not a problem to bake it with Hungarian flour or eggs; you are still able to reach the authentic Georgian taste!
How was your experience from the making of the cookbook?
Participating in this project was very emotional, because amongst the huge countries, I managed to add a piece of Georgia. The whole process, which took place in the kitchen of Slyven Restaurant, was very special! The chef (red. Hungarian Chef Ákos Lokodi) was very welcoming, and Anikó (red. Anikó Berta, the project lead manager) was very delighted and took good care of us.
Everything was very well prepared, the team was very attentive and helpful, everything was there to make this project successful.
In the kitchen, I actually became the chef, and the real chef observed and helped me where necessary. When he wanted to help me measure out the ingredients precisely I told him: “Chef, I don’t need this, please let me do it!” I explained to him that I just cook it by heart, as he watched and learned from me. Also the photographer did an amazing job, taking care of the composition and decoration, making our dishes look beautiful on the plate!
The most important moment was the degustation. We tasted my dish together, then the chef offered us the Hungarian dish he prepared, which is included in the book as well, and we also tasted the food of two Pakistani girls; it was kind of a food party, sharing each other’s food!
For me it was also a surprise how well the dish turned out, because sometimes it needs several attempts before it succeeds.
I don’t make this dish very often, once I tried at home but it became terrible. I actually watched some tutorials before I came here to cook, because it is very important to get the shape right, which isn’t easy! My mom actually told me: Ana, I can’t even do this, you did very well!
How do you serve this dish?
It is a very massive dish, but when you bake it or order it at the restaurant, everyone gets their own Hachapuri. I think the Georgians have this kind of genetics which makes our stomachs used to this heavy food!
After eating this, you don’t need to eat anything anymore for the rest of the day.
It is served with a fork and knife, but usually we eat it with our hands, you break a piece of the bread and dip it into the cheese and egg. You can eat it for lunch, around noon, but it can be breakfast as well. As breakfast, you would eat it with tea, because it goes very well with tea and lemon. From noon till 2pm you can eat the dish with lemonade. It is not recommended to eat it for dinner because it is very heavy.
What does food mean in your culture?
Food is primary for Georgians, after religion it is the most important indicator of our culture. It is part of the cultural tourism, and I believe food is the best way we can introduce Georgia.
I am very proud of my country, we have a very diverse culture, very acceptable for other nations as well, just like the Hachapuri accepts Hungarian flour, Italian mozzarella and Greek feta cheese!
Another example why the gastronomy is so important to us; it is known worldwide that the first wine was made in Georgia. As you can see in the cookbook, wine is suggested to serve together with this dish, a rosé in this case, but I would recommend a dry white wine.
Also Hachapuri is very famous, in Budapest there is even a Georgian restaurant called Hachapuri!
It is even on the list of the 100 best international dishes you can taste in the world, so it is really recognised. This is why when I got this opportunity, it was not difficult for me to choose the right recipe!
How would you describe the cookbook and why should we (students of Pécs) buy it?
If I should describe the cookbook in one sentence, I would say: Taste is in diversity. The cookbook gives the opportunity to everyone to taste dishes from all over the world while just staying at home! You can create multicultural flavours. Also, the cookbook is very easily understandable, it is written both in Hungarian and English so it is accessible for everyone. It is a flexible way of cooking,
if you want to taste the German, Jordanian, Georgian cuisine, you can just take this cookbook and use it the way you like it! Follow the recipe or adjust it to your own taste.
This is the first edition, and I can give you a sneak peek by telling you that they are planning a second edition, which will include new recipes and have interviews with the students who had their recipe in the first edition. I would really recommend to take part in the second edition, it is a wonderful experience. And of course the first edition is already a must-have for all the students of Pécs!
Written by Romy Jüch
Photos: Kalmár Lajos, Romy Jüch