Ajika has enjoyed immense popularity in the Samurzakano-Apkhazeti area (western Georgia) since time immemorial. Depending on the ingredients used in its creation, it can be a variety of colours - red, green, yellowish, or even white.
Ajika, or suneli (spice) as they call it, may be made as a generic seasoning or made specifically for an individual dish. Some of the more notable dishes that make extensive use of ajika include kharcho suneli, lobio suneli, satsivi suneli, shigani-jurjani suneli, kondarjimu, Svan salt, Gurian ajika, and later its endless variants, kachabe, qvalmintam suneli with mint, and sapichoshi suneli. In more recent times, the term “ajika” has come to mean any and all of the above.
Today’s widespread red, Apkhazian ajika was known as “meat suneli” in Samurzakano. Abkhazians have a different kind of ajika for nearly every dish. They call red ajika “apilpil-jika”, which is considered to have only spicy red pepper and salt in it, while spicy ajika paste is a mixture of dry spices, to which garlic is also added.
Since the olden days, ajika has been made in Samurzakano-Apkhazeti on a flat, somewhat hollowed-out rock which is called “akhakia”. They would then crush it until oil no longer came out of it, the ingredients were well mixed, and it no longer had the consistency of butter.
Up until today, the main ingredient in ajika has been spicy, red, smoked pepper. This is what gives ajika its spiciness. The pepper itself has a dark purple color. In Apkhazeti they say, “if you want to live a long time, you must eat Apkhazian ajika every day.”
In recent years, ajika has enjoyed an explosion in popularity in modern Georgian cuisine, with people innovating with the recipe to make ajika using such varied ingredients as feijoa, persimmon, and even kiwi fruit.
Ajika has become a sauce, a paste, and an excellent aperitif, and can be bought in most stores, markets, and even restaurants in the country.
Apkhazian Ajika “Meat Suneli” (Ancient Recipe)
250 g spicy, smoked, red pepper;
350 g dried garlic;
500 g blue fenugreek;
350 g dried coriander;
50 g saffron;
Salt to taste;
300 ml/l boiled water.
Place your spicy, well-crushed, preferably smoked red pepper into a bowl. Mix in the blue fenugreek, dried coriander, and old, minced garlic. Add saffron and salt. Mix well, preferably with a wooden spoon.
Pour room temperature boiled water very slowly over the mixture while continuing to stir it, ideally until it reaches the consistency of thick porridge.
When you have finished stirring, put the mixture through a meat-mincer (twice, if possible).
Let sit for a few hours, stirring frequently. Finally, store it in tightly-sealed glass jars, in a dark place.
The main component of Apkhazian ajika is the smoked pepper. If there is no smoked pepper available, you can ask the grocer to grind whole peppers in front of you.
The pepper seeds are often removed and ground separately. Ajika made from the seeds is light in color and used to make bazhe.
The garlic should not be fresh and should be peeled.
The smallest possible amount of saffron is added to Apkhazian ajika, since they think in Apkhazia and Samurzakano that its flavor does not go well with ghomi.
Apkhazian ajika is mainly used for meat dishes, like chashushuli, kuchmachi, kupati, basturma, and so on, but you can also use it to flavor yoghurt, sour cream, tkemali, and other sauces.
To make green mint ajika you will need:
200 g spicy green pepper;
250 g unpeeled garlic;
500 g fresh coriander;
300 g fresh parsley;
300 g fresh mint;
100 g fresh celery;
30 g fresh basil;
10 g fresh dill;
200 g leek stalks;
400 g salt.
Remove the skin from the fresh spicy pepper and rinse it well. Place it in a colander and wring it out.
Rinse the herbs and wring them out as well. Cut everything, mix it all together, and run it through a meat mincer.
Season with salt, run it through the mincer again, then leave it in a bowl for a few hours, stirring frequently.
Finally, put it in a glass jar, close the top, and keep it in a cool place, or a refrigerator.
The main components of green ajika are the fresh ingredients, especially the coriander, whose green seeds give the ajika its characteristic flavor.
You do not have to add the mint, and can instead keep it minced separately with a small amount of salt, so that you can mix it into the green ajika at a desired moment, such as when making gebzhalia.
If you don’t like how dill tastes, you can leave it out.
Green ajika is mainly used for seasoning beans and pkhali.
Green mint ajika is used for gebzhalia, sauces, nadughi, and more.