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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kharcho: Georgian Soup with Walnuts and Fresh Herbs

Kharcho: Georgian Soup with Walnuts and Fresh Herbs
Anne Milton
October, 2010
(Adapted from a recipe by DJ Park
via January, 2002)

1 lb. boneless lean beef or lamb, cut in big chunks
1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
6 cups meat stock: beef is best, but chicken will also do
6 cloves garlic, crushed or finely minced
1 bay leaf
1 medium/large tomato or a 16 oz. can diced tomatoes

1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup raw rice
1/2 bunch greens—spinach, chard, kale, etc.—(optional)
1/2 cup Georgian Walnut Sauce* (see recipe on this blog)
1/2 Tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon dried mint, crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek seed (if you can’t find this, use curry powder)
leaves from 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped (if you can’t get this, use parsley)
1/4-1/2 cup chopped, strong-flavored fresh herbs: dill, basil, mint, tarragon, or whatever you like
juice of 1 lemon, mixed with 1/2 teaspoon sugar or honey
salt to taste
1/3 cup sour cream or drained yogurt (optional)

  1. In a heavy soup pot, brown meat in a little bit of the oil: use only enough to prevent meat from sticking to the pot.  Add stock and scrape up any browned bits on pot bottom.  Bring to a boil, add bay leaf and half the garlic, reduce heat, and simmer 1-2 hours, or until meat is very tender.  Cool, then chill overnight.  (This may be done several days in advance.)
  2. Skim fat off soup pot and bring to a simmer.  Remove meat, cut in bite-size pieces, and add back to soup.
  3. Remove 1/2 cup broth from the soup and combine with the Georgian walnut sauce in blender or processor.  Process at high speed until very smooth.  Stir mixture into soup.
  4. Quarter tomato, remove insides, dice and add to soup.  Purée outer shell of tomato—the part with skin—in blender or processor and add it to the soup.  (If using canned tomatoes, simply add them and their liquid instead.)  Add remaining garlic and rice, and simmer for 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, wash, remove stems, and coarsely chop greens, if using.  Add to soup and cook until greens are cooked through and softened: 10-30 minutes.
  6. While greens are cooking, combine butter and remaining oil in skillet over low heat.  Add onion and cook slowly until slightly browned, soft and aromatic.  Stir in next six ingredients and cook a couple minutes more, stirring occasionally, until spices are coated with fat and fragrant.
  7. Stir onion and spice mixture into soup, along with about half the chopped fresh herbs and all the lemon juice.  Let mixture sit for 5-10 minutes, then stir, taste, and add salt to your liking.  (You can also add more pepper flakes, honey, and/or lemon juice at this time if you like.  But taste first: the balance of flavors is pretty good the way it is.)
  8. Stir remaining herbs into hot soup just before serving.  Serve each bowl garnished with 1 Tablespoon sour cream or yogurt, if desired.
Serves 4-6

*See recipe on this site at:

A vegetarian version of this soup can be made, substituting vegetable broth for the meat stock, with 1 1/2 Tablespoon soy sauce added for flavor (use a wheat-free soy sauce if you want to make this gluten-free.)  In this case, use 1 1/2 lbs fresh mushrooms—portabellas or wild mushrooms if you can manage it—instead of the meat.  Purée half the mushrooms along with the tomato or the walnut sauce; slice and sauté the remainder with the onion and spices, and stir in toward the end of the cooking time.

This soup is delicious: thick and hearty, but also wonderfully sophisticated and complex in flavor.  The original recipe boasts that the soup can "singlehandedly help you prepare for or recover from a blizzard, a grueling journey, any challenge you can imagine."

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