Why boiled unsalted cornmeal tastes good

I read that one of the main staples of Abkhazia is unsalted boiled cornmeal. I didn’t think there was any chance I would like my new hobby. I kept researching and read a travel article, by Oliver Bullgoh and his experience with this cornmeal porridge. He found that the trick to eating unsalted cornmeal was to add cheese and Adjika. Based on his description of Adjika I wanted to try this for myself.

I learned that there are two common cheeses in the region: suluguni and bryndza. Suluguni tastes like a mild mozzarella with a soft sour finish. Bryndza has the texture of feta, but very mild.

The unsalted boiled cornmeal porridge is called Abysta. I didn’t really find a recipe for this. However found that it is a lot like mamaliga, which I could find recipes for. The big difference is that mamaliga adds salt.

When using the mamaliga recipe there was not enough water to corn meal ratio, so the cornmeal was still dry and raw. I kept adding water and stirring until the cornmeal cooked more. I think the choice to buy medium grain cornmeal was wrong. Anyway I got it to be the consistency of polenta, which is a bit thicker than what I think of  porridge.

IMG_3491

I used the Adjika recipe from cookedearth, which suggested we use 1 1/2 lbs of green peppers. I wrote it down as 1/2 lb for the grocery list, which already sounded like a ludicrous amount of peppers. The deseeding was painful as the kitchen became pungent with spice. My friend remembered a cool way to remove the seeds and membranes. Roll the pepper with your hand on the cutting board. Then cut it open and squeeze from the top and all should come out. It doesn’t always work, but it is better than watching a grown man cry from cutting peppers.

Devain pepper

We debated on whether to toast the walnuts or not. I decided not, to see how it came out, but with all the other flavors I didn’t notice a nut flavor and think it is there more for a thickening. However I think next time I would toast them.  Besides the missed step on the number of peppers and having to use green Serrano peppers, the result was amazing!!!! The sauce is complex with a strong green pepper flavor. There is a noticeable spice but not overpowering for my palate. The consistency did not come out right as it is supposed to be a paste. I think we needed to make sure the vegetables were dry and maybe add more peppers, oil, or more walnuts to thicken it more.

Adjika

The cornmeal mixed with Adjika was actually delicious and we all went back for seconds.  We preferred the bryndza cheese over the suluguni in the mixture. Of course it is just a vehicle for the Adjika and glad I didn’t skip the experience and can’t wait to try more Abkhazian cuisine.

Boiled cornmeal

 

 

 


Recipes

Adjika

Original recipe can be found here

  • 3/4 lb. red Serrano chilies, seeded
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped and seeded
  • 2 cups cilantro
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

 

1) In several cups of boiling water, combine peppers and celery. Boil for 5 minutes. Shock in ice water and drain and dry.

2) Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well combined. Let sit for at least 30 minutes, but it gets better after a day or two.

Abysta

Original recipe can be found here

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup cornmeal, fine grain.

 

1) Bring water to a boil

2) Stir in cornmeal and reduce heat to a simmer. Constantly stir to avoid lumps. Cook until it is the texture of polenta, about 20 minutes.

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