Alpine leek is a rare plant with many beneficial properties. It can be very hard to find, since it starts to sprout in early spring and often needs to be gathered from under the snow. Alpine leek is also known as wild niorai and gives off a distinctive smell. It grows in the damp forests and central mountain ranges of Georgia, where it is known to have been used for a very long time.
There are many recipes that use this rare ingredient, including Alpine leek shechamandi, Alpine leek seasoned with vinegar and herbs, Alpine leek mobratsula, Alpine leek with oil and coriander, and it can also be pickled or raw. All varieties are delicious and nutritious. Recipes using Alpine leek are also found in the first Georgian cookbook, by Barbare Jorjadze.
In the mountains, the best ritual pastries are baked on holidays, and are known as khortsshebuiani kada pastries.
You will need:
1½ kg bread flour;
1 tbsp yeast;
1 kg meat (beef, pork, or mutton);
3 bulbs of shebu (Alpine leek);
700 g cheese;
2 tbsp clarified butter; and
Salt to taste.
Together, this will make 10 medium-sized kada pastries.
Rinse fresh stalks of Alpine leek well, and then put them into boiling salty water and boil them for around 40 to 45 minutes. As soon as you can crush the stalk in your hand, take the Alpine leek out of the boiling water and leave it under cold running water for one hour. Then, put it into a colander and squeeze it into balls. The Alpine leek is now ready to be used in any recipe, but when you are making khortsshebuiani kada pastry, you should chop it and then carefully squeeze it by hand once more.
The dough for khortsshebuiani kada pastry is kneaded with bread flour and yeast. To make it softer, it is preferable to use warm milk while kneading instead of water, and you can even add a little fat. The dough should be kneaded just as it first rises, while the filling should be made before it rises for a second time.
Meanwhile, put salt and pepper onto the finely-chopped meat and grind it by hand. Do this well, for about 10 to 15 minutes. Then, add the clarified butter and continue grinding. Add in crumbled fresh or slightly-salted cheese and, finally, mix in the chopped shebu (Alpine leek) so that it is not excessively crushed. The filling is now ready.
Craft the dough into a ball, separate it into equal pieces, and let it sit for a few minutes. Then flatten it, put the filling into it, and let it bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees. Spread clarified butter and ordinary butter over the top once it has finished baking.
When there had been a long winter in the mountains and snow had settled on the villages, khortsshebuiani kada pastries would also be made with pickled Alpine leek. Over the years, it has almost been forgotten that this delicious and nutritious traditional Georgian filled pastry was ever made. Recently, interest in the dish has been revived, and khortsshebuiani kada pastry has taken its well-deserved place on Georgia’s lengthy list of gastronomical delights.