Today, there is a wide variety of recipes for lobio (bean stew) in Georgian cuisine, such as Megrelian beans with tkemali (sour plum) juice, Imereti-style boiled beans with leeks, whole boiled Gurian beans (kirkazhi), Rachan beans with ham, beans with dried fruit, beans with Kakhetian oil, beans with tomatoes, or even bean with walnuts, mashed in a pot, dry and fresh. Of the bean-based dishes, Rachan lobiani (bean pie) is incomparable and served all-year-round, while fresh bean dishes tend to be seasonal, finding their place on the summer table. Recently, the beans offerings on Georgian menus have become even more diverse, including the preparation of a meatball-like dish (gupta).
Depending on the recipe of choice, beans are accompanied by peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, jonjoli (picked flowers) or capers, along with fresh herbs, horseradish, green onions, and radishes. Beans with mchadi (Georgian cornbread), once considered a peasant’s dish, is now served at the country’s more affluent tables.
Beans are of course known for their high nutritional value, being rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals.
The broad variety of lobio recipes share one common starting point: rinse the dried beans and leave them in cold water overnight, and then rinse them again in the morning and boil them. It is preferable to pour the water out after the first boil, and to refill with cold water. Then, when the water starts to boil and evaporate, add more cold water. Use a wooden rather than metal spoon to stir the beans, as otherwise they will not boil properly. If they are taking a long time to boil, add a few spoonfuls of oil to the pot. Once boiled, the beans are mashed with a special wooden spoon.
One universally-approved authentic recipe for seasoning beans does not exist. Instead, this is done according to taste. Every region of Georgia has its own cherished recipe for lobio.
Rachan beans are revered with the natives of this northern region of Georgia. They’ve got a whole ritual for making them. First of all, pork fat is used as oil, or the beans are boiled along with with ham. Meanwhile, delicious Rachan lobiani (bean-based pie) is made with beans seasoned with pork fat, and the skin of the beans is removed, so they take on a soft consistency and a lighter color. The dominant flavor of Rachan lobio is ham.
In eastern Georgia, beans are mainly used in soups, usually with mint and coriander. In addition, onions fried in fat are added to boiled bean soup, and sometimes fresh and juicy tomatoes when in season.
Elsewhere, Gurian kirkazhi is made with a mixture of fresh coriander, basil, chopped hazelnuts or walnuts, pepper, salt, and vinegar, with fresh, chopped onions added at the end.
Another striking feature of the much-loved lobio is the clay pot in which it is customarily served. Pottery has been practiced in Georgia since time immemorial, and these charming pots are made especially to accommodate beans, adding a special sense of ceremony to the devouring of one’s soul-warming lobio.
To make this dish, you will need the following:
500 g dried beans;
2 large onions;
3-4 cloves of garlic;
1 small bunch each of parsley, celery, and coriander, as well as ground pepper, salt, 1 tsp tkemali juice, made of boiled and thickened plums, and called kokha in Samegrelo.
After they have been softened in advance, place the beans into a pot, pour water into it, and boil it over a medium flame until the beans are quite soft. Then pour the boiled water out of the pot (keep this water aside) and mash the beans well. Add the finely-diced onions, garlic, and herbs, and the salt and pepper to taste. Then, pour the boiled water set aside earlier back onto the mashed beans to achieve the thickness you desire and stir together. Once it comes to the boil again, cover the pot with a lid and leave it over a low flame for 10 to 15 minutes. Finally, add the tkemali and bring it to the boil once more, then take it off the heat.