Delicious walnut and garlic paste rolled inside thin strips of eggplant – these tasty appetizers are so easy to make! The delicately spiced filling includes traditional spices popular in the Republic of Georgia. These yummy little bites disappear quickly! Easy recipe for a unique appetizer or on a holiday buffet table.
Before we even arrived in the Republic of Georgia (located in western Asia or eastern Europe, depending on how you call it!) we were looking forward to sampling the local cuisine. I spent a little bit of time looking up Georgian culture and traditional foods, so I had a list of “must tries” that included these Georgian eggplant and walnut rolls.
Georgians are really proud of their national heritage, especially with regard to food, and for good reason! Georgia is blessed with fertile farmlands that bring forth abundant fresh produce. In fact, Georgian’s have a longstanding history as originators of grape wine. Nowadays, small Georgian farms create amazing artisanal cheeses, original and tasty plum sauces, walnut candies and much more.
Obviously, I was excited to taste this incredible Georgian food! In our typical style, compared to other expats, we don’t go out to eat all that much. That’s probably because we stay for several months to a year, sometimes longer, in a given area. Slow travel at its best, as we usually travel for work rather than for fun. (although our work can be very fun also!) 🙂
When we arrive to a new area I have my “3 day rule” which means that for the first three days while we are getting settled, we eat out… for all of our meals. So, I arm myself with foodie ideas, maps and restaurant names and we hit the streets. Then, as we walk the area and become familiar with the local offerings, I begin to stock my new kitchen with local ingredients so I can cook fresh food for our daily meals. After that, we tend to eat out only on special occasions, for business or with friends.
Over years of traveling, we’ve discovered that, in general, restaurant food just isn’t as fresh as we’d like it these days – anywhere in the world. Unless you find a little home-style cafe where you can watch everything being made fresh daily, unfortunately, even rice in most restaurants is made ahead of time and refrigerated – sometimes for days! (though no one admits it!) Sad but true. We’ve found that the best restaurants are those that feature either a set “menu of the day” which is always made fresh (and when they run out you miss out!) or we’ve learned to order items that have to be made on demand… like fresh salads, grilled chicken or fish, and certain other vegetable dishes.
Fortunately for us, we had the opportunity to taste these little Georgian eggplant rolls in a home setting, when our new Georgian friend, Irma, made some just for us. They were delicious, and I watched carefully so I could recreate the recipe on my own later. This recipe is naturally vegan, without even trying to be.
When I had originally seen photos of the dish on line, I thought it was a main dish and would be served warm (for some reason, don’t ask me how I got that impression!) so I was surprised when Irma made the dish and served it as a room temperature appetizer. But after one taste, I understood the addictive charm of these little veggie bites! And truly, as delicious as they are, they make a perfect appetizer, because they are too rich to eat a full meal’s worth. 😉
Just some dainty morsels to whet your appetite and leave you craving more – that’s what a good appetizer is all about. With just a few ingredients and a little time, you can create this dish in your own home, too.
Let’s Make Some Georgian Eggplant and Walnut Rolls
This recipe is great because the procedure is simple and only takes a few minutes to assemble. You can make it ahead of time because… room temp appetizer! This recipe should yield about 12 eggplant rolls, depending on the size of your eggplants and how thinly you slice them.
First, you’ll be making a blended paste of walnuts and garlic. You can use a food processor, but Irma used a blender (and so do I). A little bit of water is added to make sure the paste is smooth and spreadable. The only addition is a Georgian spice mix called Svaneti salt or Svanuri marili (in Georgian).
This is a local spice mix made of garlic, blue fenugreek, coriander, marigold powder, dill, caraway, pepper and salt. When Irma introduced it to me, I asked her what Georgians usually use it for… she paused for a few seconds thinking. Then she shrugged and laughed and said that she throws a few pinches into almost everything she cooks.
After tasting it, I understood what she meant! Little packets of this fragrant spice mix are available in almost every corner shop in any town in Georgia and I always have some on hand. I often find myself reaching for the Svaneti salt when I’m looking for something to give an extra “oomph” to some random dish I’m making. It’s great in salad dressing, on potatoes, veggies, soups… almost anything you can think of!
If you love exotic spice mixes, you should try Svaneti salt. You can buy it from several suppliers online, for example, on Etsy or at spice shops online like this one. If you don’t want to get Svaneti salt, I provide a reasonable substitute using the main spice ingredients in the recipe card below.
Once you make the filling, put it in a bowl and set aside.
The eggplant used for this recipe is the small elongated Asian, or Chinese eggplant variety, rather than the large globe-shaped western version. The eggplant is sliced very thinly and salted to remove any bitterness.
After the eggplant has released its bitter liquid, and is dried off, it is then lightly fried. I’ve found that only a small amount of oil is needed to get the eggplant to become translucent and pliable, hopefully lightly browned in the process. If you use too much oil the strips won’t brown. However, you don’t want to over cook them or they will become stiff and more difficult to roll.
After you have finished frying the eggplant strips, you cover the strips in a thin layer of the walnut-garlic paste and roll them (starting with wider end) and set on a serving plate. I’ve seen them served either standing on end, or on their sides… either way, they look so cute!
The dish is finished with a scattered garnish of pomegranate seeds, as pomegranates are also a local favorite fruit and feature into many Georgian meal creations.
This is just one of the numerous scrumptious new Georgian recipes I’ve discovered. I still haven’t had time to post them all, but you can also check out these Georgian corn cakes called mchadi, that I posted with my homemade vegetarian chili recipe (mchadi recipe is right above the recipe card) and this really tasty orange-infused traditional Georgian yeasted Easter bread.
I do hope you will try this lovely eggplant and walnut roll recipe! If you’re like me, it will become a part of your rotational menu that you can count on when you need a quick, tasty and pretty dish.
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Georgian Eggplant And Walnut Rolls (Badrijani Nigvzit)
- 2 medium Asian or Chinese eggplant
- 1 cup walnut pieces
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¼ cup warm water more as needed
- 1-2 teaspoons vinegar, to taste apple cider, white or red wine vinegar will all work equally well
- mild flavored oil for frying
- 1 teaspoon Svaneti Salt spice mix (also known as Svanuri Marili) if not available see next ingredient
- OR mix of spices equalling 1 teaspoon total of (dried coriander powder, dill weed, black pepper, fenugreek powder)
- salt to taste
- 3 TBSP fresh pomegranate seeds
- Rinse eggplants and cut off ends. Do not peel. Slice lengthwise into ¼ inch thin slices.
- Lay slices on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Set aside.
- In a food processor or blender, blend walnuts and garlic into a smooth paste, adding water bit by bit to get a texture that is suitable for spreading on the eggplant pieces.
- Remove walnut/garlic paste from blender or processor and add vinegar, spices and salt to taste. Set aside.
- Press any liquid and salt out and dry the eggplant pieces.
- Using a heavy frying pan, (non-stick or cast iron) pour a thin layer cooking oil and heat for frying.
- When oil is hot, add eggplant pieces in batches and fry on both sides, browning, until eggplant is translucent and pliable.
- Remove eggplant and drain on paper towels. Repeat process until all slices are fried.
- When eggplant has cooled, spread a scant amount of walnut filling on each piece, making sure that it is only a thin layer and avoiding the edges.
- Roll the slices from the wider side into tight little rolls.
- Arrange on a serving plate, either on sides or standing up. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and serve.