Thursday, 28 February 2013

Georgian feast 1: Piquant beef stew (Khalia)

Scrumptious khalia
The real Georgian feast is the stuff of legend. Long tables groaning with food, wine by the litre and witty toastmasters that lead the drinking with great gusto, pomp and ceremony. Or so I've heard.

I've not yet made it to Georgia, but reading about the cuisine set the pleasure-seeking part of my brain into overdrive. The clear connections with that other great love of mine, Persian cuisine, only added to the mystique and made me want to know more.

It's been a while since Georgian has been on the actual rather than the virtual menu, for no very good reason that I can think of, really. But when I saw beets in my local veggie shop, I knew the time had come to explore this corner of the culinary world again.

My "feast" may be a paltry three dishes, but that's about as good as it gets come dinner time on a weeknight. I hope I will be forgiven.

Khalia is a zesty stew with garlic and lots of fresh herbs, given extra body with walnut pieces. In Georgia, tkmali, a spicy sauce made from sour plums, is a key ingredient. The sauce is hard to come by, and is replaced by tamarind paste in many of the recipes you will find for khalia out there, as it is in this recipe I've adapted for the pressure cooker from Anya von Bremzen's recipe in Please to the T­able: The Russ­ian Cookbook. (If not cooking under pressure, the meat will need to simmer for around 1.5 hours.)

Khalia piquant Georgian beef stew

Serves 4

3 tbsp olive oil
800 g stewing beef, cut into small cubes
3 medium onions, chopped finely
2 tbsp tamarind paste
2 tbsp tomato paste
180 ml hot beef stock
1 tsp hot Hungarian paprika
3/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground fenugreek
1 tsp dried tarragon
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup walnut pieces, coarsely ground or finely chopped
3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
pinch of sugar, or to taste

1 Heat the oil in a large pressure cooker over a medium-high heat. Add the beef and onions and cook, stirring, for 15 minutes. The meat will release quite a lot of liquid.

2 Add the tamarind paste, tomato paste and hot stock, together with the paprika, coriander, fenugreek and tarragon. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Seal and bring the pressure cooker up to pressure, lower the heat to low and cook until the meat is very tender, about 45 min, shaking the pressure cooker from time to time to ensure the stew does not catch on the bottom.

3 Stir in the garlic, walnuts and coriander and adjust the seasoning, adding sugar and more spices to taste, if desired. Simmer, covered, without pressure, for 15 minutes longer.



janet @ the taste space said...

Wow, this looks delicious. I know it wouldn't be the same, but do you think chickpeas could sub for the beef?

Saffron said...

I don't see why not. The sauce is delicious You could also try red kidney beans. They're really popular in Georgia.