In this episode of Explore Azerbaijan, we hike across the pristine landscapes of Gabala, which lies in the foothills of the Caucasus mountains. We also meet local farmers and discover the famous Ata-Baba hazelnut, and see how it is used in the recipe of a regional specialty.
The latest edition of Explore Azerbaijan, looks at nature, culture, and food. Our reporter Monica Pinna embarks on a hike in Gabala, and enjoys the breathtaking views. She also experiences a special slow-cooked Gabala dish using Ata-Baba hazelnuts.
Gabala lies in the foothills of the Caucasus mountains. A well-known ski destination, Gabala’s great outdoors is a hiking haven for the rest of the year. I walked along the bright pebbled riverbed together with tour guide Hayal Hajanmedov, up to a waterfall 2,000 meters above sea level.
There are other methods of exploring the region's beauty including paragliding and cycling, but we chose a slow- paced walk to fully embrace the wilderness experience and get off the beaten track.
But the Gabala region is not only about wild landscapes. Hazelnut fields are a common sight in a country that is the third-largest hazelnut exporter in the world. The 'Ata-Baba' variety produced in the Gabala region is particularly famous. Imran, who grew up there, explains why:
“Compared to other local hazelnuts, the ones from Gabala stand-out because of their high oil content and overall quality. Ata-Baba is a centuries-old variety of hazelnut, hence its name literally “from father to son.”
These hazelnuts are one of the pillars of Azerbaijan’s slow-food cooking. To understand how they are used in the local cuisine, chef Nijat Kermimli helped me prepare a special regional dish, hazelnut Lula, made from ground hazelnuts, honey, and sugar.
Lula is a traditional dessert. It can be served after some other local classics such as meat kebabs, vegetables, and a vast number of handmade starters. An unforgettable feast!