On hearing the word “kubdari”, Georgians think of Svaneti, since kubdari is an indelible part of Svan cuisine, made from a special mix of diced meat, forest savory, and Svan spices. What makes kubdari truly unique, though, is a particular spice that Svans call “gitsruli”. Gitsruli itself is hotly debated: some say that it is cumin, others call it a variety of caraway, while others still maintain that gitsruli is simply gitsruli, a flavorful mountain herb. Either way, it is not easy to find and mostly grows in the hayfields of Ushguli village. But without gitsruli, there is no point even trying to make “kuptaari” – Svans call kubdari – or Svan salt.

Besides gitsruli, there is another secret to making kubdari: the diced meat should be kneaded for a long time before cooking - or as Svan chefs say, it should be baked in your hands before it is put in the dough. This ensures that the filling will be soft and the kubdari will bake quickly. 

Kubdari has been awarded the status of an Intangible Monument of Georgian Cultural Heritage. A lesser known, but equally impressive, variety of kubdari is prepared with a filling of mountain trout.

How to Make Kubdari

At first, kubdari was only made with kneaded, leavened dough and a filling of wild game, which was fairly bounteous in that region. In fact, Svans joke that they loved “kuptaari” so much that they tamed cows and pigs so they could start using their meat. These days women in every family in Svaneti make this delicious filled pastry, which is one of the hallmarks of the Svan identity. 

Many kinds of dough are used in kubdari. The dough can be kneaded in the traditional way, with only yeast and water, or with warm milk and fat, or with matsoni and baking soda, but the filling is the same in every recipe.

For kubdari filling you will need:

1½ kg meat of a young cow or pig, fairly fatty (or a 50/50 mix); 

1 large onion;

3-4 cloves garlic;

2 tsp dry herbs (coriander, dill, blue fenugreek, gitsruli or cumin) in total;

Red pepper (dry), to taste;

Salt, to taste.

Knead the dough thicker than the dough used for khachapuri in 1.2 liters of water (you may also use milk or water mixed with matsoni). You can also knead in 50 grams of butter or margarine. These numbers make six to seven medium-sized kubdari. To get the kneaded dough to rise, leave it in a warm place.

Dice the meat into equal, medium-sized pieces and add the finely minced onions, garlic, and spices. If the meat is not young and soft, you should tenderize it with a wooden hammer.

Take particular care when seasoning the meat with the spices. Add a relatively large proportion of dry coriander, a medium amount of blue fenugreek, and a comparatively smaller amount of the dill and gitsruli (or cumin). In total, this should be about two equal tablespoons of spices. Ideally, the spices be freshly ground, so that they are more aromatic.

Finally, add salt and pepper to the filling according to taste, and knead it for a long time with your hands, so the spices can settle into it and it becomes flexible.

Knead the risen dough again and then let it sit for a short while. When it starts to rise again, form it into a ball and separate it into equal-sized pieces. Flatten each ball, add the filling, and close them up. Pierce a hole into the dough so it does not inflate, put it into the oven, and bake at 180 to 200 degrees. Spread butter and clarified butter on top of the baked kubdari, and eat them hot.

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