Kharcho

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you . . . the champion of Mingrelian Georgian cuisine . . . Kharcho!  Okay, let’s get the typical phonetics out of the way.  You will pronounce Kharcho as “har-cho”.  Now that we have the nit-picking out of the way, we can get down to business.  Kharcho is a very common Mingrelian-style dish, regularly prepared in households throughout Georgia’s Samegrelo region.  It is, in essence, either the meat from a turkey (a chicken is also fine) boiled in a very heavily-spiced broth.  Let’s get to it!

Where’s the meat?

Chicken

Here it is. . .

Since Kharcho has a soup-base, you’ll want to have that pot of water fired up before you start cutting.

A pot of water set to boil on a propane stove.

Once you have your chicken meat cut and set aside, put it all into your pot of water to cook.  Leave it to boil for about ten to fifteen minutes.  You won’t be adding the other ingredients immediately and directly into the pot, so don’t get too excited just yet.  Patience!

Chicken meat boiling in the water.

Go ahead and throw a handful of chopped parsley into the brewing broth.  It won’t hurt a thing.

Onions in water.

Throw four large yellow onions and two split cloves of garlic into a bowl of water and let them soak while you prepare the rest of the soup stock.

Roast about 2.5 cups of flour in a pan over the stove until it is lightly browned

Toast some flour (about 2.5 cups) in a pan over the stove until it is evenly and lightly browned.  This adds a unique flavor to the soup, in addition to thickening it a good bit.  Set the browned flour aside.  You will be mixing it with herbs and spices.

Add a couple of spoon-fulls of coriander (კინზი) and three spoons of blue fenugreek (უცხო სუნელი).  You can add salt and pepper to the mix at this point if you so desire.  Pour some of the chicken broth out of the boiling pot and into the mixing bowl, which should contain the flour and spice mix.   Mix it with a spoon long enough to evenly stir up the flour and spices in the mixing bowl.

Take this time to remove the onions and garlic from their bath and chop them finely.  Add them to the large pot broth.  Chop some more parsley and add it to the pot.

 

Add a ladle of Georgian ketchup (spicy ketchup if you have it).  Stir and add the soupy flour-spice mix.

 

Mix thoroughly and your Megruli Kharcho Soup will be ready to serve!  Eat with ghomi (Georgian variant of grits) and bread on the side.  Enjoy!

As with all things, make sure you have a warm kitchen full of love!

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The juice of the grape is the liquid quintessence of concentrated sunbeams. – Thomas Love Peacock

I returned to Georgia on September 11 of this year 2011.  I am now staying at the house of an 81-year-old Bebia, Pepela (Georgian for butterfly), with her grand-daughter Keti and Keti’s son, Giorgi.  Needless to say, I run with a wild crew.  A couple of weeks ago, Bebia decided that it was time to put the plump red Odessa grapes, which the vines on the property had yielded, to use.  We spent one day picking the grapes throughout the property.  Bebia determined, unfortunately, that the yield had not been significant enough to produce wine this year.  However, she was confident that there was sufficient grape juice to create what the Georgians call pelamushi.
Pelamushi is a Georgian delicacy made from grape juice extract, combined with a mixture of sugar, flour, and a bit of corn starch for shortening.  I must apologize, for I didn’t take any pictures during the actual juice extraction, but here is a picture of a juice boiler:

http://tinyurl.com/5va2wq5

Basically, it’s a three-part component with a hose on the lower chamber.  Bebia placed grapes in the top chamber, water in the bottom chamber, and heated the component on an electric heat pad.  Once the temperature increases to the point of condensation, the water helps to “sweat” the juice out of the grapes.  That’s my understanding of the juicing process, at least.  I had a cup of the condensed grape juice and I can say it was better than anything I had tried before.  Bebia and Keti let the juice drip into large glass jars which they individually sealed with metal lids so the juice would be preserved for future use.
We made the pelamushi on the following day.  Bebia mixed some grape juice, sugar, flour, and corn starch in a large cooking pot and placed it over the fire in the Megruli-style smokehouse (just behind their house); where meats and cheeses are also often left to cook or smoke.

Pelamushi

Bebia boiling the Pelamushi mixture

Bebia had a little helper . . .

Little Gio!

The mixture is boiled for about ten to fifteen minutes, then thoroughly stirred before cooling.

Bebia Mixing the Pelamushi

Allow the pelamushi mix to cool and congeal, and you will soon have more of a jello-like mixture.  It makes for a wonderful snack or desert.

Pelamushi: the final product

Prior to making this pelamushi, I had been on a week-long diet of oatmeal and crackers due to a stomach virus.  Needless to say, I wolfed down my bowl of pelamushi and gladly helped to finish off the other one!  Belka the dog was a little envious.

As with any other cuisine, perfecting Georgian dishes is always about timing.  While allowing the pelamushi to cool, you can also use the paste to make churchkhela.  What is churchkhela?

Churchkhela

Simply put, churchkhela are hazelnuts on strings, dipped in pelamushi mix and hung out to congeal.  I have described the delicious treat as “Hazelnuts wrapped in a fruit roll-up.”  So, how exactly would one make churchkhela?  First of all, it takes nuts.

Keti cracking hazelnuts

Of course, you have to crack them.  You need to be careful though, as you don’t want to bust too many nuts.  Otherwise, you won’t be able to string them up for the churchkhela.

THE HAMMER

Crack the shells of the nuts, then run a needle and thread through about twelve or more nuts per string segment.  You can double your output and put two separate columns of nuts on one string.

The strings are looped over a stick

We prepared the strings the night before making the pelamushi, and pre-preparation like this would be ideal to consider if one desires to make churchkhela.  With the pelamushi mixture freshly boiled, dip the stringed-nuts one by one into the pelamushi.  This should be done a total of two to three times.

Dip the strings individually into the pot of pelamushi

Allow them to dry for several hours, and you will have the sweet delicacy ready to eat!  You can simply pull the string out of the solid candy, otherwise you might have an inconvenience to every bite.

So, now you’ve seen a couple of lesser-known benefits of having a vineyard.  If you’re ever short of grapes for wine-making, you might consider extracting the sweet grape juice to make these tasty treats!  Until next time!

Posted in Georgian Cuisine | 1 Comment

A Little Slice of საქართველო – ხაჭაპური ამერიკული

Even though I am returning to Georgia in two weeks, I felt the urge to try my luck at cooking khachapuri and mtchadi.  It’s obvious that I miss Georgian food!  I will walk you through the steps I took in attempting these staple dishes of Georgian cuisine.  This is a recipe for pan-cooking the khachapuri, which is not how it’s always done.

Step 1: Mix the khachapuri dough

Ingredients:

  1. .5 liter yogurt (plain)  You can find this in just about any grocery store.
  2. 1 kg wheat flour.  I used a very cheap brand but it worked well.
  3. 1 tbsp baking soda (or yeast)
  4. 1 tbsp sugar
  5. 1 egg yolk
  6. salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Put the egg yolk and tbsp of sugar into the half-liter of yogurt.
  2. Add the flour and the tbsp of baking soda (or yeast).
  3. Mix well, let dough rise in the mixing bowl for about an hour.
  4. The dough should ready to use before too long.
  5. Knead and flour when necessary.

Step 2: Ready the cheese

Ingredients:

  1. 600g soft cheese (I used a 50/25/25 mix of mozzarella/feta/goat cheese)
  2. 2 or 3 eggs
  3. salt

Cheeseballs

Directions:

  1. To ready the cheese, you must mix it all together in a mixing bowl.  Add your desired proportions and mix.
  2. Add the egg yolks and salt, mix.
  3. Make sure mixture can be fashioned into balls of cheese (I was able to get about 10 cheese balls to make 10 khachapuri)

Step 3: Rolling

rolling rolling rolling

  1. Roll your mixed dough on a wooden board or some sort of cooking board.
  2. Roll it to a thin layer that’s about 2-3 cm.  The thinner, the better.
  3. Add a ball of the cheese, egg, salt stuffing to the surface, cover with another flat piece of dough.
  4. Crimp the edges of the khachapuri so that the cheese does not melt out of the sides during the cooking process

Step 4: Baking

Buttered, slits added to prevent excessive bubbling

  1. Butter each side of the khachapuri before baking it on a pan for ~3 minutes per side on medium heat.  Stop when they are slightly browned.
  2. (Recommended) You can butter the top again, add an egg, or more cheese and throw it into the oven for a few minutes before you serve it.  This will provide for a much heartier and filling khachapuri.  I did not follow through this step in my attempt, but I plan to do it next time.

no vegetable oil needed

And remove when browned . . .

brown town

At this point, you could take step 2 and add the egg, butter, or cheese to the top of the khachapuri and throw it into the oven for a few minutes.  When ready, slice into quarters or sixths.  Add ice cold Coca-Cola and you will enjoy your little slice of Georgia 🙂

Enjoy!

I will add the recipe for our attempt at mtchadi later today

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