Russian Kitchen: Adjika

Adjika. Source: FotoImedia

Adjika. Source: FotoImedia

If Russian food is too bland for your taste buds, spice up the dishes with this subtly flavoured sauce from the mountains of Abkhazia.

After living in India so long, I love spicy Indian food. The flavours of Andhra style Chilli Chicken, Masala Papad from the north and Kerala Fish Curry make my mouth water. Hot countries like India have historically developed pungent dishes as spicy food makes one sweat and allows the body to cool down. Using lots of spices also helps preserve food longer in hot climate. There is a difference in what people consider as spicy food not only in taste but in language as well. In Russian language the word "ostro" means spicy. When we use the English word "spicy" we mean something that is spiced with green chilly or red chilli powder. While in the Russian language, that word would describe not only food with chilli in it but also with raw garlic, horse radish or vinegar. 

I have faced awkward situations in India and Russia with spicy food. When my husband who is an Indian came to Siberia, we went to a Chinese restaurant. Needless to say that Indian Chinese food is the tastiest. Russian Chinese is also tasty but quite bland. We ordered several Chinese dishes which according to my husband "tasted like nothing." He called the waitress and asked her for a hot sauce. To that she answered that they don't have one but they can definitely provide chopped raw garlic! I must say that raw garlic is very widely used to flavour Russian dishes. It is an acquired taste for Indians even though cooked garlic is one of the most common ingredients in Indian cuisine.

At one of my parties I decided to treat my friends with stuffed eggs as starters. The preparation was very simple: boil the eggs, mix the yolk with mayo, cheese and chopped raw garlic and put it back in egg white. You should have seen the faces of the people who had a generous bite of stuffing full of raw garlic! 

The other incident was here in Bangalore when my mom came to visit me. We went to a restaurant and ordered a soup clearly stating to the waiter that "please don’t make it spicy". Non-spicy soup came with a generous addition of black pepper quite spicy for Russian pallet. 

One of the most popular sauces after mayonnaise and mustard which is used as an addition to Russian dishes is Adjika. It is a rather spicy tomato based sauce flavoured with garlic, red chilli and herbs. As you can guess from the name, the origin is not Russian. It comes from the Caucasus region called Abkhazia (autonomous republic in Northwestern Georgia that declared independence in 2008). The word Adjika comes from the Abkhaz word for salt. In the remote mountainous villages of Abkhazia, old ladies grind the spices for Adjika on a stone. The taste is heavenly since the herbs are dried up in the fresh mountain air of Abkhazia and then grounded by hand. It is not easy to figure out what constitutes the original taste of this sauce. They say it has: “hot pepper, coriander, basil, celery, dill, garlic, walnut oil, saffron, salt and water”.

The original taste of Adjika is different from the one we get in Russia. Dishes tend to change to adjust to the palette of a particular country. I have not tried the original Adjika but will take initiative to share the recipe that I am familiar with. 

Adjika

Ingredients:

Makes about 2.5 litres of sauce but you could decrease the quantity proportionately and use a pressure cooker to save time.

Tomatoes 1.7 kg

Capsicum 250 g

Carrot 250 g

Onion 150 g

Garlic 100 g

Chilli to taste

Oil 50 ml

Vinegar 100 ml 

Sugar 1/4 cup

Salt 1/8 cup

Herbs of your taste (oregano, thyme or coriander)

Preparation:

1. Wash tomatoes, capsicum and onion; blend it in a mixie. The colour of the sauce should be bright red. We are using red capsicum. In India, red capsicum is not easily available or too expensive. When we use green capsicum, the coloUr of the sauce will be lighter and more towards orange.

2. Bring the mixture to boil and simmer for 30 min; add chopped garlic, chilli, sugar, spices and salt and simmer for another 1 hr.  

3. Add oil and vinegar.

 

Adjika is ready to be bottled. You could keep it in the fridge for several months. 

This sauce is excellent addition to non-vegetarian grilled dishes, a dip for vegetables or chips or as a sauce for dumplings. 

 

Priyatnogo appetita!

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