On Ketsi or Lavangi

Those who are familiar with Georgian and Azerbaijani cuisines can easily identify the origins of this recipe.

In Georgia, kefalia, a small trout from the mountains of Adjara is stuffed with walnut paste seasoned and adorned with aromatics and herbs and roasted in a clay pot ketsi. The stuffed fish often is placed on a pillow of fresh herbs like parsley and dill with the addition of bay leaves. They prevent the fish from sticking to the bottom of the ketsi and add more flavors. 

A similar way of stuffing and roasting fish (and also poultry and eggplants) is known as Lavangi — a popular festive dish of Azerbaijani cuisine. Stuffed fresh-water fish or carp of the Caspian Sea is usually prepared for Nowruz. While traditional spice mix Khmeli Suneli contributes the Georgian flavors, an ingredient specific to the Azerbaijanian version of the stuffing is a pomegranate or sour cherry syrup.

Adjusting the Recipe to Your Local Ingredients

This dish made far away from the Caucasus region loses its authenticity. Even with high-quality, imported spices and condiments, everything else is going to be different. But we can use the same cooking method and smart adjustments to whatever good is available on our local markets to enjoy a personal modification of the recipe.

Here is what I do in Central Texas. I use high-quality rainbow trout. Whole fish is available at Costco and Central Market, if I want to debone it myself. Otherwise, I get fillets. During the season (November-January), I usually replace walnuts with raw pecans, because fresh nuts are as crucial for the recipe as the fresh fish. The amount of fresh green chile pepper gives me the ability to modify the level of heat to the taste of my clients.

All Georgian spices are now available to purchase online, including on Amazon. If you don’t care for Georgian spices, just skip or replace them with Persian style spice mixes. In case you don’t tolerate fresh cilantro, replace it with parsley. No pomegranate syrup? Add some lemon juice to balance the fats. Analyze what every ingredient brings to the recipe and replace it creatively with one of your favorite and available.

Georgian Style Stuffed and Roasted Trout

Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Course: Main Course, Main Dish
Cuisine: Azerbaijani, Georgian
Keyword: fish, pecan, roasted, stuffed, walnut
Servings: 8 portions
Calories: 393kcal

Ingredients

  • 8 each rainbow trout fillet deboned

for stuffing

  • 400 g walnuts or pecans, raw, shelled
  • 120 g onion sweet, finely diced
  • 8 g garlic fresh, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp serrano fresh, finely diced
  • 55 g cilantro fresh, chopped
  • 1 tsp khmeli suneli Georgian spice mix
  • 0.5 tsp utskho suneli blue fenugreek powder
  • 0.5 tsp marigold dry petals powder aka Imeretian saffron
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper freshly ground
  • 2 tbsp walnut oil or cold-pressed sunflower oil
  • 2 tbsp water cold
  • 3 tbsp pomegranate syrup unsweetened molasses

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400F. Scale the trout fillets and check that there are no bones in them. Keep the fish refrigerated until ready to stuff.
  • Prepare all the ingredients for the stuffing paste. Peel and finely dice the onion. Sprinkle it with 2 tbs kosher salt. Let sit for 10 minutes, rinse under the running cold water, and squeeze extra water and juices.  Peel and finely dice garlic cloves.  Wash, slit open, remove the seeds and membranes and dice the serrano. Wash and chop cilantro. Measure the rest of the ingredients.
  • Place all stuffing paste ingredients into a blender jar and process them into a paste. There is no need to make it smooth; it should be slightly grainy, yet homogenous. Taste it and adjust its seasoning to your taste.
  • Pat dry trout fillets with a paper towel. Arrange half of them on a baking pan lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper with their skin down. Spread the paste 0.5 inches thick and cover with the rest of the fillets, their skin up. Make a few shallow slits on the trout skin and truss with a culinary tread or blanched scallions/chives. Spray the trout with walnut oil. You can prepare the fish in advance, cover, and keep refrigerated for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours until ready to roast.
  • Roast fish for 20-25 minutes until it's fully cooked and broil for 1 minute at the very end.
  • Top with fresh lemon slices and pomegranate seeds (if in season) and serve with rice, roasted or boiled potatoes, or blanched greens.

Nutrition

Calories: 393kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 36g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 2mg | Sodium: 625mg | Potassium: 283mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 474IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 59mg | Iron: 2mg
Georgian stuffed trout
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