You can not hurry Kharcho – The Moscow Times

You can not hurry Kharcho – The Moscow Times

Winter weather dominated the headlines this week as a freak blizzard brought Washington DC to its knees, a fact that did not go unnoticed by Moscow-based veterans who greeted the 19-hour delays on I-95 with crooked amusement as they trudged through. another daily snowfall that has become the norm in the Russian capital over the past week.

You never get snowy days in Russia; When the Russians face a daily meter of fresh snow, the Russians simply button up their fur as high as they want, pat on the hat and fight on in the hope that at the end of the day there will be a pot of something steaming hot on the stove to help thaw them.

It was with this hope in mind that I struggled through the cold to the market to gather supplies for the first pot soup in 2022. As I slid and slid along the icy sidewalk, I had in mind a golden chicken soup with handmade egg noodles, added salted green onions and pickled peppers, but all thoughts of this disappeared when I spotted a row of full-bodied lamb shanks lined up on the butcher block. A hiss of adrenaline later, I was busy procuring walnuts, coriander, beef bones for storage, and a strange commodity known as fruit leather: rubbery sheets of dried fruit flesh, popular throughout the former Soviet Union. I was mentally preparing for a two-day cooking marathon, the result of which would be a heavenly dish that contained more than a hint of the sun. This is kharcho, Georgia’s beloved sweet and sour soup that is as sure to warm the body as it is to nourish the soul.

I firmly feel kharcho, which I turn to when I feel an urge to impress. When I was invited to cook for Moscow’s International Women’s Club one January after their regular three-hour Nordic walks through Sokolniki Park, I put all my chips on a large pot of kharcho and some freshly baked Uzbek bread and cashed in mightily. I have never seen a pot of soup disappear so quickly; and every international woman who jumped in seconds asked, “what in the world is going on in this?”

Kharcho combines many of the basic flavors of Caucasian cuisine: lamb, tomatoes, the sour sweetness of jewel-colored fruit leather and the signature spices coriander, blue fenugreek, basil, summer spices, parsley, marigold and mint in khmeli suneli, Georgia’s most popular spice. The heat from kharcho comes from the region’s favorite chili paste, adjika, which mixes with the sweetness of the pulp and pomegranate juice and syrup in a rich broth, where each element is deliciously different.

The debate over kharcho’s meat base will continue to rage long after I’m gone. I’ve had good versions with beef, mutton and lamb, though I’m convinced you can ‘t beat lamb shank for taste and texture. Rice is often used as a starch in kharcho, although I very much prefer the more traditional millet, with its airy texture and nutty flavor, which reflects the tiny pieces of walnut dipping in the soup.

You can not hurry kharcho: Lamb shanks must have a long braise to become deliciously tender, and if you have to spend time on the lamb, you might as well simmer a little homemade beef stock up at the same time. Then gather all the elements of the broth: the sour sweetness of the fruit leather softens the acidity of the tomatoes in a long simmer, thickened with the braising liquid. These consecutive steps usually take me two days, with time to braise the liquid to cool. But the result is magic: poured over a pile of airy millet and garnished with a generous handful of fresh coriander and other fresh herbs, this is little more than a soup and just a little less than a stew. Add cool flatbread and you have a meal you will soon forget!


  • 2 large or 4 small lamb shanks (approx. 1 kilo or two pounds of meat)
  • ¼-cup (60 ml) + 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, cut in half + 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 2 liter (2 liter) beef stock
  • 2 cups (475 ml) robust red wine
  • A 14-oz (410 ml) can of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • 1 tablespoon salt and pepper
  • 2 large red peppers, cut into fine cubes
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) adjika
  • 5-oz (100 grams) fruit leather cut into small pieces (replace the same amount of dried prunes, rehydrated with hot water and 25 grams of tamarind paste)
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp khmeli-suneli
  • 1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds, crushed
  • 2 cups (475 ml) pomegranate juice
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) pomegranate syrup
  • 1 cup (235 ml) finely chopped walnuts

Serve with

Decorate with

  • Freshly chopped coriander, mint and parsley
  • Freshly cut spit bowl
  • Several chopped walnuts


  • Heat a cup (60 ml) of the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large, thick-bottomed soup pot or Dutch oven. Salt and pepper the lamb shanks well, then sear them on each side until well browned.
  • Remove the shanks to a plate, then lower the heat to medium. Pour the red wine into the pan and use the back of a wooden spoon to scrape off any of the pieces that stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the tomato puree and whip to combine. Let it simmer until the mixture is reduced by half.
  • Return the lamb shanks to the pan, then add the two halves of the garlic head, a quarter of the chopped onions, the chopped tomatoes and enough of the beef stock so that the shanks are halfway covered. Bring the pan to a gentle boil, then lower the heat as far as it can reach, cover the pan tightly and let the shanks simmer for 2-3 hours until the meat falls off the bones. You can also do this in an oven set to 200ºF (95ºC). Check every 30 minutes to make sure the liquid has not evaporated. Top up with more beef stock as needed.
  • Remove the shanks from the braising liquid and use a fork to remove the lamb from the legs, then set the meat aside. Divide the lamb into mouth-sized pieces. Remove the fat from the braising liquid by cooling it overnight or using a degreaser to separate the fatty liquid. Do not throw away the shank bones or garlic head!
  • Wipe the pan and heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in it. Saute the remaining onions until transparent. Then add the chopped garlic, peppers and sauté for another 5-7 minutes until all is completely soft. Sprinkle the mixture with the paprika and cayenne pepper and stir to combine. Then add the khmeli-suneli, fenugreek and salt.
  • Add the braising liquid and its solids, the rest of the broth, the pomegranate juice and the syrup to the pan and bring to the boil. Add lamb and lamb legs, fruit skin, adjika and walnuts and stir well. Put the lid on and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes.
  • While the soup is simmering, toast the millet in vegetable or olive oil until shiny and a few grains “pop”. Pour 1-¾ (410 ml) cups of water for each cup (235 ml) of millet with a pinch of salt. Let it simmer until the millet has absorbed all the liquid. Fluff up the grains.

* Do not put the millet directly in the soup pot. Pour hot soup over the cooked millet in the soup bowl to prevent the millet from becoming rubbery and absorbing too much of the soup. Store the excess millet and soup separately.

To serve the soup: Discard lamb legs and garlic peels, then place ½ cup of millet in a low soup bowl and pour the hot kharcho over the grains. Top with fresh coriander and other herbs, sliced ​​scallions and a few chopped walnuts. Serve with cool flat or lavash bread and a good Georgian wine.

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