Stew With Suliko: Mtirala National Park
Updated: Aug 11, 2018
We made this aubergine and walnut stew on our second evening in Georgia.
We had cycled to the boundary of Mtirala National Park and having been invited in for a cup of coffee by Suliko, the ranger on duty at the edge of the park, we ended up staying the night on the balcony, playing backgammon and cooking together. When we first arrived the sun was setting and Micheal Jackson’s greatest hits was blaring out of a pair of old speakers. Married with spectacular views down the river this was quite a scene.
Having indicated to Suliko we wanted to cook for him we were reaching for our little gas canister when, with a Crocodile Dundee ‘that’s not a knife’ style gesture, he indicated the much larger canister in the corner. Having become quite attached to our own little camping stove with its delicate simmer control I had visions of this new somewhat more butch option charring our dinner to a crisp. Free gas is free gas though and it seemed Suliko had plenty to spare.
I needn’t have worried; as it turned out the flame could be turned right down and we were able to create a really delicious meal of aubergine stew with crusty bread and salad.
Truth be told it was very much a hot pot of what we had to hand - but sometimes they’re the best. My favourite moment was when Suliko first tasted the dish. From his reaction I’m guessing he’s usually indifferent to aubergine but the moment the food was in his mouth his eyes lit up; he leant back, smiled, and set down his fork to give us a double thumbs up. And within a few minutes he was reaching for a second helping. The universal sign of approval.
Here’s how we did it:
Aubergine and Walnut Hotpot:
Served two ravenous cyclists and one park ranger.
What you will need:
2 x large onions (roughly chopped)
6 x aubergines (cubed)
4 x cloves garlic (chopped small)
Salt & Pepper (to taste)
Teaspoon of mixed herbs
1 x tin tomato puree
The juice of half a lemon
A large slug of tahini
Handful of roughly chopped parsley
Finely chopped walnuts (well, relatively finely anyway)
Fry the onions on a gentle heat in a nice amount of walnut oil. Leave covered for around five minutes or until the onions appeared nicely sweated. Then add the aubergine. Cover and leave cooking for a further ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Next add the garlic with half a cup of water. Season with the salt, pepper, and herbs. Pour in the tomato puree and cook for approximately five more minutes before adding the lemon juice and tahini. The stated quantity is what we used on the night but we added it according to taste. Allow to simmer, adding more water if necessary. The aubergines should be nicely coated but the overall dish shouldn’t be too liquidy. Leave gently simmering and once the aubergines are cooked through add a handful of roughly chopped parsley on top. Serve with a sprinkling of walnuts and extra squeeze of lemon as you see fit.
The whole process took around twenty minutes on the night. Suliko brought out some huge chunks of rustic looking brown bread and Ruth made a beautiful salad comprising of cucumbers, tomatoes, garlic, lemon, red peppers, and walnuts.
Everything was eaten and each of us well fed. It was a great evening. The only shame was that neither of us was a match for Suliko at backgammon.