Georgia, sweet Georgia – not the state, but the ancient country in the Caucasus mountains! Georgia is where weaving and wine were invented, where Jason found the mythical Golden Fleece, whose people regularly live to be 100+ and have poetry and song written into the very DNA of a culture that is resplendent in its renowned hospitality and delicious foods!
As you can tell – I’m a fan. 😉
Georgian cuisine represents perhaps the ultimate mastery of harmonized herbs and spices, combining both Indian and Mediterranean sensibilities with a unique and vibrant cuisine that is all its own. It is even more healthy than the classic Mediterranean diet, including superfoods such as walnuts, pomegranate, garlic and more spices than you literally have in your home at this moment in time. Check out all the Georgian herbs and spices used in their cuisine at this link.
Sadly, while Georgian cuisine is renowned in Russia and the countries of the former Soviet Union, it is practically unknown everywhere else – and I have made it my life’s work to correct that heinous miscarriage of food justice!
I’ve posted at least one Georgian recipe before, and will post many more in the coming months and years – this one is a personal favorite. 🙂 Be advised – there are several unfamiliar spices and ingredients in this recipe, but I offer substitutes and you will be rewarded with a unique and truly delicious experience if you follow my lead.
Kharcho (ხარჩო) is a beef and rice soup that is one of the national dishes of Georgia – but to call it just that is doing it a grave disservice, as a single sip is a revelation!
Kharcho is seasoned with the unique Georgian spice blend called Khmeli Suneli (ხმელი სუნელი, literally “dried spices”) – a blend that includes a range of different spices such as Wild Blue Fenugreek, Marigold Petals, Georgian Bay Leaf, Red Pepper, Basil, Fennel, Parsley, & Cilantro. Every house has their own version and ingredients – I will share my own.
Several of the spices in this mix are nearly impossible to find in the US, but I have (after much diligent research!) found them for you or I’ve suggested alternatives that are much easier to find in your grocery store.
The soup also uses the sour green plum sauce flavored with herbs and spices called Tkemali. It is also difficult to find in this country, but I list a source and a very effective substitute that to my knowledge has never been suggested before.
Enough background – time to sample this wonderful recipe and prepare to have your tastebuds BLOWN AWAY, Citizens! 😀
Battle on – The Generalissimo
For the soup:
1 pound of veal or beef bones
2 quarts of bottled water
¼ teaspoon Kitchen Browning Sauce – more if needed to give a good color (optional)
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of cilantro
¼ teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
1 large onion
2 tablespoons of walnut oil (preferred) or olive oil
1 ¾ teaspoons of salt
¼ cup Georgian Green Tkemali sauce (available at Russian delis or buy it from here – be sure and use the green version, not the red, as it is more flavorful) (Substitution – use 1/8 cup A-1 steak sauce mixed with 1/8 cup plum, apricot or quince jam)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup uncooked rice
2 pounds *tender* leftover meat such as from brisket or beef stew cut into bite-sized pieces
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
¼ teaspoon of cayenne
¼ teaspoon of paprika
3 tablespoons (or more) of finely chopped fresh herbs (I recommend basil, cilantro and dill)
Fresh ground black pepper
The Hirshon Khmeli Suneli – Combine a generous ½ teaspoon each of: ground coriander seed, dried basil, ground caraway seed, ground marigold flowers (buy from here or use turmeric), and lastly Utskho Suneli (Wild Blue Fenugreek) – buy from here or use regular ground fenugreek
Bring the bones to a boil in up to 2 quarts of water (or use enough to cover) and skim the foam that rises to the surface. Then add the bay leaves, cilantro sprigs and peppercorns and simmer for 1 ½ hours. Strain and discard all, saving the broth.
Meanwhile, finely chop the onions and cook in oil until very soft but not brown. Add them to the soup along with salt and rice – cook for 15 minutes, then add the lemon juice and tkemali sauce.
Stir in the freshly ground pepper, the garlic, cayenne, paprika and ground spices + the meat. Cook for 10 minutes more. (The soup may be cooled and refrigerated at this point. When ready to serve, heat gently, then proceed with the recipe.)
Stir in the fresh herbs and let the soup stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Serve with hearty bread and butter and a good Georgian red wine such as Khvanchkara or Khindzamarauli – failing that, try a fruity/spicy Pinot Noir or Malbec.