January 13, 2015 lyukum

Megrelian Kharcho

Megrelian Kharcho

Kharcho (ხარჩო) is a traditional Georgian meaty soup or stew. It is usually made with beef or chicken, but can also be made with other meats and poultry. Depending on the region, its consistency may vary. Imeretian cooks prefer their kharcho thinner and spicier. Megrels, who use walnuts in every other dish, make a thicker version with chopped nuts. When kharcho is served as a soup, it usually contains rice. There are also recipes without rice — stewed meat with a thick and aromatic walnut sauce. Some recipes list tomatoes or tomato paste among their ingredients. Follow them and the color of your kharcho will be shades of red. Other recipes feature plenty of fresh herbs and, as a result, somewhat green kharcho.

There are many recipes, many variations. What similar characteristics make them all “kharcho”?

Meat. The original full name of this dish in Georgian is “dzerokhis khortsi kharshot” or “beef soup”. Beef is one of the three traditional main ingredients of the dish. It is possible to make a very tasty and aromatic vegetarian version of rice and walnuts soup, but naming it “kharcho” is not appropriate. It sounds the same as “vegetarian chicken soup”.

Based on my experience, the best cuts for this soup are sirloin or flat iron steak. Beautifully marbled, not overcooked, naturally sweet and juicy, they are the best partners for the fruity tartness and herbal spiciness of this soup.

Tkemali. Tkemali (ტყემალი) is the Georgian name for a sour plum known as cherry or myrobalan plum (lat. Prunus cerasifera). Famous pungently tart Georgian sauce Tkemali is made of this plum puree mixed with herbs and spices. In this soup, tkemali is used in a form of fruit leather, tklapi. Tkemali tklapi is extremely difficult to find in the U.S. I was lucky to have a friend who sent me a box of authentic Georgian tklapi as a gift.

The easiest substitutions for tkemali are pomegranate syrup (no sugar added) or tamarind pulp. My experiments with fine sour plum paste by Shemshad were also successful. When substituting tkemali, adjust the acidity of kharcho to your taste. It should be pronounced and delicate at the same time.

Walnuts. Walnuts give the depth to this dish. They round up all the flavors, make it hearty and rich. I like to use them toasted for more flavor.

Spices and herbs. There is a Georgian spice mix for this soup — kharchos-suneli. The easiest way to create an authentic flavor is to order this mix online at www.argo-usa.com. Their kharcho seasoning mix includes: utskho suneli (blue fenugreek), fennel, coriander, celery, parsley, Georgian saffron (marigold), Georgian bay leaf, red pepper, black pepper, dry onion, dry garlic.

A shorter list of spices should include freshly ground coriander, bay leaf, red pepper, and black pepper. Adding blue fenugreek makes a lot of difference, but it is difficult to find outside Georgia. You can buy it at www.argo-usa.com.

Blue fenugreek (Trigonella caerulea, უცხო სუნელი – utskho suneli) is a relative to a more widely known fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum). So, ground regular fenugreek seeds and leaves can be used as a substitute. In this case, ground seeds should be cooked with onions (to remove their natural bitterness), and ground dry leaves added at the end of cooking.

Read more about Georgian herbs and spices.

In my version of kharcho, I only use parsley and cilantro fresh, because I have the whole nine yards of dry spices available. If your list of spices is short, go for additional fresh herbs — add a little bit of tarragon, mint, basil, and oregano. They will make up for the missing flavors.

Megrelian Kharcho
Megrelian Kharcho
Print Recipe
Prep Time 20minutes
Cook Time 20minutes
Passive Time 15minutes
Servings portions
Megrelian Kharcho
Print Recipe
Prep Time 20minutes
Cook Time 20minutes
Passive Time 15minutes
Servings portions
Ingredients
Units:
main
spices and herbs
Ingredients
Units:
main
spices and herbs
Instructions
  1. Cut tklapi to pieces and add about ¼ cup of hot (205F) water, just to cover tklapi. Leave it for 15-20 minutes to hydrate.
    Tklapi
  2. Wash the herbs. Tie parsley and cilantro stems with a cooking string into two bundles. Cut off the leaves and roughly chop them. Now, you have two 2” long bundles of stems and two piles of parsley and cilantro leaves.
  3. Peel and dice red onion. Cut chili pepper, remove seeds and membranes, and dice. Sauté onions and chili in walnut oil on medium heat.
  4. Cut beef to bite-size pieces and add to the onions. Turn heat to high and cook meat for a few minutes, stirring.
  5. Add cold stock, rice, salt, and herb bundles. Bring to the boiling; lower the heat to minimum, and cook for about 10-12 minutes, till rice is almost done.
    Cooking Kharcho
  6. Heat the skillet. Using food processor, pulse walnuts to break them to pea-size pieces. Toast them on hot skillet, stirring, for a minute till fragrant. Return them to the food processor jar; add cilantro and parsley leaves, garlic, softened tkemali tklapi, and spices. Process it to a pesto-like paste.
    Kharcho paste
  7. When rice is almost done, remove the herb bundles, mix in the paste, and bring to the final boiling. Turn of the heat and serve piping hot.
Recipe Notes

Georgian spices in the U.S. on www.argo-usa.com

Shemshed's fine sour plum paste on www.amazon.com

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Nutrition Facts
Megrelian Kharcho
Amount Per Serving
Calories 575 Calories from Fat 333
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 37g 57%
Saturated Fat 10g 50%
Polyunsaturated Fat 13g
Monounsaturated Fat 11g
Cholesterol 67mg 22%
Sodium 1640mg 68%
Potassium 505mg 14%
Total Carbohydrates 40g 13%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Sugars 8g
Protein 23g 46%
Vitamin C 37%
Calcium 7%
Iron 19%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Comments (2)

    • lyukum

      Yes to sour cherry. As for the apricot, it depends on the apricot variety. The level of tartness is important. Tkemali is very fragrant and tart.

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