Nobody can tell you the exact meaning of “ajapsandali” but, over the years, as well as being the name of an everyday Georgian dish, it has also come to mean “a mess.” All different kinds of ingredients are thrown together into ajapsandali, to deliver a true polyphony of flavors, combining to transform into one unified and delicious whole. Ajapsandali somewhat resembles the French ratatouille and Italian sauté, but, according to gastronomic researchers, it is a truly special, urban Georgian dish (especially common in Tbilisi), not directly copied from any other cuisine.

Variations of Ajapsandali

Ajapsandali represents freedom, because there is no specific recipe and there are no limits in its preparation: you can make it with vegetables, meat, or beans, you can add carrots, green peppers, red peppers, yellow peppers, potatoes, and even rice. The one common ingredient that every variation has is eggplant, they keynote ingredient.  

How to Prepare Ajapsandali

You can make ajapsandali in a pot, a pan, or even a bowl. The vegetables thrown into the dish can be long-cut, cubed, or round, but the eggplant, the irreplaceable centerpiece of ajapsandali, should be peeled, cut, and left salted for a short time, to soak up the excess moisture and eradicate any bitterness, before being placed in the pot, pan or casserole.

Ajapsandali may be eaten hot or cold. You can make it in any season too, but it is mostly connected with summer, a time of year when Georgia’s kitchens radiate with the smells of freshly-picked vegetables. 

The previously time-consuming preparation is more efficient these days, as people try to maximize their time in the kitchen. Take well-washed and peeled vegetables, and place them together in layers in a pot, put it over a low flame, and, as soon as the vegetables start to soften, push them all down together. Then add herbs and salt, cover with a lid, and, finally, this much-loved dish will be ready.

Those with the luxury of more time prefer to fry all of the ingredients separately, with patience and care, and then put them all into a pot together, with invariably more delicious results.

There is one ingredient that gives ajapsandali its special taste and adds the piece de resistance to the dish: basil. Quite cruelly, an unsuccessful person in the city might be referred to as being “like ajapsandali without basil.” 

A Classic Recipe for Ajapsandali

1 kg eggplant; 

500 g red/green peppers;

200 g carrots;

200 g potatoes;

200 g onions;

4-5 cloves of garlic;

200 g each of coriander, basil, parsley,

A green chili pepper;

1 kg soft tomatoes;

300 g sunflower oil; 

Salt to taste.

Wash all the listed ingredients well. Peel the peppers and cut them finely. Grate the carrots and put them in a separate bowl. In a separate deep dish, put the peeled tomatoes. 

Peel the eggplant, cut it, sprinkle salt over it and leave for half an hour, and then squeeze it out well and fry in oil in a pan.

Save time while preparing the vegetables by boiling the potatoes. If you have cut the onions and herbs finely, then you can start cooking.

Ideally, you want a somewhat large, cast-iron pot for ajapsandali, so that everything can fit inside and boil well.

Put the pot over a medium flame, pour in a little oil, and as soon as it starts to heat up, throw in the finely-cut onions. As soon as you see the onions change color, add the peeled and finely-cut or grated tomato (you can also add a tablespoon of tomato paste here). Then, put the boiled potatoes into the pot and very gradually add the remaining ingredients. Finally, pour as much boiling water into the pot as you want, depending on how thick you want it to be. Keep in mind that many people do not add any water at all. Boil it over a low flame, and, in about 10-15 minutes, your ajapsandali will be ready for the plate and the hungry diners around the table.

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