Georgian Soup with Rice
If you want something comforting, gently spiced, filling and a little bit exotic, then kharcho is just for you. This simple Georgian soup with hints of spice from the khmeli-suneli, sourness from the tklapi and freshness from the herbs will become your new lunchtime favourite.
A couple of points before starting:
Traditionally, kharcho is made from beef stock. Personally, I prefer to use lamb stock. When I buy a beautiful leg of lamb, I bone it for other dishes and am left with a great meaty bone in my freezer. Just perfect for kharcho. If I want a lighter version, I use chicken.
The second point is about tklapi – a traditional Georgian ingredient which adds a pleasant sour taste. It is made of sour plums pureed and dried in sheets. It is sometimes replaced with a little bit of lemon juice, but a more suitable ingredient is the widely available tamarind paste, which tastes very similar to tklapi.
Please don’t forget to check out my post on khmeli-suneli which we are going to use again for this recipe and for many others later on. It is worth making a small batch if you want to explore Georgian cuisine more.
Lamb bone with some meat left on it or 2 chicken legs
4 medium onions
4 ripe tomatoes or 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
80-100g basmati rice (depending on how thick your want your soup)
50g tklapi or tamarind puree, or use the juice of 1 lemon
5 garlic cloves
1 small bunch each parsley and coriander
1 tsp khmeli-suneli
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1.Make your stock. Use a piece of beef with a bone in, a lamb bone with some meat left on it or a couple of chicken legs. Add 2 litres of cold water, flavour it with some bay leaves, a whole peeled onion, a carrot and some black peppercorns and cook until the meat is very soft. When ready, take the meat out, shred it and sieve the stock (not necessary, but I always do it to make a clearer soup and to get rid of all the vegetables and pepper. You can do this a day before making the kharcho.
2. Before starting on your soup, soak your rice in water for 1 hour. Finely chop the onions and soften them in a big saucepan with 2 tbsp of sunflower oil until golden. Add a good splash of water to the saucepan and cook the onions another 15 min.
If you can get hold of very ripe tomatoes, pour boiling water over them, take off the skins and chop finely. Otherwise, you can use a tin of chopped tomatoes. Add the tomatoes to the saucepan and cook for another 10 min.
4. Add 1.5 litres of your stock to the saucepan, bring to the boil, cook for about 10 min and add the rice. Gently boil the soup until the rice is cooked.
5. While the rice is cooking, finely chop the garlic and herbs. When the rice is ready, add the tamarind and the shredded meat to the soup, mix it well, add the garlic, herbs and khmeli-suneli. Cook for about 5 minutes, add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, take off the heat, cover with a lid and leave for 5 min to develop more flavour.
6. Enjoy with some extra herbs, flat bread and hot chilli paste if you prefer it spicy!