Herbs on our balcony, flowers on the windowsill, plants on the floor… And this is just at home and at our dacha everything is now immersed in all things green, growing, expanding, elongating and shaping : ) This is summer! Though with our capricious Northern climate with just about couple of really hot weeks a year, all this bloom requires hard work… I’m not a gardener myself, I mean I enjoy working with plants and soil but I’m more of a person who’d rather take all these greens into the kitchen and make a nice pie out of them.
So, you’ve already guessed, this post is about pies, herbs and bread. Inspired by the theme / idea for the upcoming edition of PANISSIMO hosted by Barbara of Bread & Companatico and Sandra of Indovina chi viene a cena? – which is baking with summer herbs – I decided to make a post on using the abundant early summer herbs from our garden (and balcony!). As I’ve completely let the previous edition of PANISSIMO pass by without my noticing it, there’s no way I’m going to miss it this time.
Here are some of my Mother’s new children, already living in the kitchen:
Vanilla Basil has actually a distinct anise, almost medicinal flavour – definitely not vanilla!
And this on is supposed to be Cloves Basil (and where’s Basil Basil I keep asking my Mom)
The first recipe I would like to share with you does not suit the posting rules of Panissimo (there’s neither yeast nor sourdough in it) but it’s just a good way to use up leftover fresh herbs before they get all withered. This is a variation on the khachapuri theme, one of our family’s favourite dishes – actually, pies – they are originally from Georgia but are very well known and loved here in Russia. There are various posts on other kinds of khachapuri on my blog, such as Khachapuri a là Adjari (Khachapuri po-adzharski), just Khachapuri, as well as a close relative of khachapuri, Ualibah, Ossetia Brined Cheese Pie. You can imagine how many times I’ve baked this pie and how many more times I will do it, it’s like good pizza, you can never get enough of it.
A year ago – Gros Sablé Breton or Je ne Mange pas Six Jours to gorge yourself on a very sweet and crumbly giant shortcrust Breton cookie.
Khachapuri with Herbs and Cheese translated and adapted from i-kulinar.com will make although a not authentic khachapuri (they use no herbs IN the pie in Georgia) but an almost healthy kind of pie : ). My remarks are in italics.
Ingredients for the dough:
- 300g flour+ I added wheat bran
- 200g matsoni (traditional soured milk) or natural unsweetened yogurt – I used prostokvasha (buttermilk) + kefir
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp soda
For the filling:
- 250g Suluguni (see my explanations on substituting Suluguni here)
- 150g home-made cottage cheese (tvorog) – I had none, so added a bit of 15% fat sour cream
- 1/2 bunch of fresh dill
- 1/2 bunch of fresh parsley
- 1/2 bunch of fresh coriander + I had to throw in the surplus of spring onions
- 1 egg
- freshly ground black pepper
+50g butter for brushing the top once the pies are baked – instead, I brushed some sour cream before baking
Sift flour, salt and soda into a ‘mountain’ on the working surface, make a well in the centre and pour yogurt / kefir / buttermilk into it. Knead the dough. It should come out soft and elastic, not sticky.
For the filling, process the cottage cheese with a fork so to avoid large crumbs. Finely grate Suluguni and add to the cottage cheese. Chop the herbs and mix everything well together. Then add in the egg and season the whole thing with salt and pepper. Mix well. The filling should be salty enough to counterbalance the plain dough.
Form the dough into small balls and then roll each one into a thick sausage. Cut each sausage into slices about 3 centimeter thick. Roll out the pieces into rounds (ideally of the same size). Place a ball of filling into the centre of each round, lift the edges of the dough and seal them, creating a sort of bag with cheese inside. Flip the ‘bag’ over, seam side down, and roll slightly – you should get a 1cm thick flat round pie. And here is where I failed =) shame on me, but it’s true that I do not have the required skills. If only I were rolling those khachapuri each day… Well, the runny filling was really RUNNING from all over the place so I opted for a rather curious shapes like this:
Khachapuri can be cooked in an un-greased cast iron pan or baked for about 10-15 minutes in the oven preheated to 180 ‘С. You can brush the hot pies with butter (which I did not). The pies are great with any of the soured milk products – that’ll be very much into the Georgian theme.
You will get a whole pile of small pies out of this recipe, enough for several meals – but of course nothing compares to freshly baked khachapuri pies… My Dad said they were actually more like Ossetian Cheese Pies (as these can be with herbs too) but could have been better, of course – well, after living in the Caucasus one becomes a true pie expert! With my Mom we just though… we’d like to have a second helping, please!
My pies looked completely UN-khachapuri like, all due to the runny filling which prevented the pies to be rolled out once they were filled. However, they reminded me of those Adjari type, in the shape of a boat. I think this is the solution if you end up with a runny filling – just shape the dough in small ‘boats’, fill these up and pinch the borders so that the filling doesn’t escape from the pie.
My other suggestion is this: don’t throw away the stalks from dill, coriander and parsley – they will make a great job in a vegetable stock! We always keep them in the fridge for the next batch of soup.
BTW, here’s a suggestion for using herbs + it’s also a nice zucchini & cheese bake: Zucchini Cake from tzatzikiacolazione.blogspot.com – I even had all the necessary herbs at hand (basil and thyme) although instead of ricotta I used kind of soft white cheese. No photo here, see the source site!
This bread recipe is destined for the June edition of Panissimo. Although there’s not much herbs in this recipe, this bread is perfect for eating WITH herbs for breakfast, some natural yogurt and cheese provided : )
Here’s the hero pictured on the balcony in the evening just after being baked – next to some of my Mom’s plants:
Quick Rosemary Bread adapted from bitterbaker.com (thanks, Yvonne, I keep discovering your bread universe!) will quickly make dense but yet so soft a loaf, super slice-able and equally super tasty. See the original site for the entire recipe, here I mention only my changes:
Mixed milk with water, added wheat germ, slashed the top. The bread began to brown quickly, so I had to lower the oven temp to 200 ‘C, then to 190 + move to a lower rack earlier than 20 minutes before the end of baking time.
The rosemary did not remind of itself much in this bread but the specks of it were visible here and there. Anyway, this is an easy and quick recipe for a perfect breakfast loaf! And also perhaps as I’ve been always adding some wholewheat / bran / germ / other types of flour to my breads, here was an astonishingly WHITE bread, aromatic and keeping well.
Tiny specks of rosemary can be seen on this photo – the herb is the curious Vanilla Basil:
I already have some more bread recipes. I keep realizing each time I bake bread that there’s nothing as good as bread and baking bread – especially when you’re inhaling the aroma as indeed an addict…
Today is a day off so I’m making up for the working days with instant couscous instead of a proper meal. And I’m going to bake yet two more different variants of khachapuri… Sister’s getting married this week, by the way!