Some would say that’s it’s about time.
Some would say that it’s way past time.
And many of you will simply wonder how it happened that I have not presented you with a potato salad before this.
It’s not like I haven’t been eating them – it’s one of the great things to do with new season potatoes. Just boil ’em, chop ’em up, add mayonnaise and/or natural yoghurt, maybe a bit of mustard, some chives or spring onions, parsley or dill, possibly a few capers, salt, pepper and away you go. I guess I didn’t think that you really needed me to tell you how to do that. The salad that I have here is a little different to the usual, though, not least because I had to go on a long journey to find it. All the way to Russia, in fact.
Ok, I will admit that I didn’t actually travel to Russia to find a potato salad, but that’s where I first sampled Georgian food. And by that I mean food from Georgia the country, due south of Russia, and not the Georgia that Ray Charles and others had on their minds.
Now, whereas it can sometimes feel that Russian dining is all about vodka and pickles, Georgian cuisine has more of a middle eastern feel and, without question, the nicest meals that I had in Russia were Georgian. So enamoured of the food was I that I secured a copy of The Georgian Feast, Darra Goldstein’s wonderful exploration of Georgian food culture, so that I could find out more. More, in this case, included potato salad.
Georgian Potato Salad
Walnuts are a very common ingredient in Georgian cuisine and this is adapted from a recipe for potatoes & walnuts included in The Georgian Feast. Instead of grinding raw garlic with the walnuts as in the original recipe, I prefer to cook the garlic in with the onions. I also add some natural yoghurt to make a slightly moister dish.
- 450g potatoes, preferably a firm, waxy variety
- 150g onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tblsp butter
- 100g walnuts
- 2 tblsp red wine vinegar
- 4 tblsp chopped fresh herbs – parsley, dill or a mixture of both
- 2 tblsp natural yoghurt
- coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- First scrub the potatoes and boil or steam them in their skins. Depending on size, this may take anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes.
- When the potatoes are done, drain (if they were boiled), cover the pot with a tea towel and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle, you can peel the potatoes if you like (or leave the skins on if that’s what you prefer). Cut them roughly into whatever size chunks you’d like in your salad.
- Meanwhile, place a pan over a medium heat. Add the butter and allow it to melt. Then add the onion and garlic, stir and fry until softened, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
- In a spice grinder or food processor, grind the walnuts until they resemble fine crumbs.
- Combine the ground walnuts with the red wine vinegar, herbs, yoghurt and cooked onion mixture. Season to taste with coarse salt and black pepper.
- Toss the walnut mixture with the potato chunks. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed or add more yoghurt if you like.
- I suspect that you don’t need any further instructions on how you should now go about eating your potato salad.
- To make something closer to the original version, grind the raw garlic with the walnuts instead of cooking them with the onion. Add yoghurt or not to the salad, depending on how moist you want it to be.
- A little lemon zest is a nice addition to this.
- Salad portions for around 4 people, in theory anyway. It won’t take me four sittings to eat this amount by myself.