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Cookery: South of Russia

Pursuits | By Elisabeth Luard

Armchair travellers’ cookbook of the year is Olia Hercules’s Kaukasis (Michell Beazley, £25). Born and bred in the Ukraine, the author trained and worked as a chef before publishing Mamushka – family life and recipes from her homeland, a cookbook that won her a fistful of awards and an enthusiastic following for her pop-up supper clubs all over London, her adopted city.  Olia is now an East Ender with an allotment full of sputnik-shaped squashes and pennyroyal (a key flavouring in the Caucasus).  Her new book takes a hop-skip south-east to Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia, a region that borders on Russia, Turkey and Iran, and takes its name and much of its independent character from the ridge of high mountains that separate the Black Sea from the Caspian.  Everyone in these borderlands has cousins everywhere, so research was no problem. Culinary strengths reflect the neighbourhood: buttery pilaus with dried fruits...

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