Georgian Lamb and Rice Soup (Kharcho)

Kharcho Soup

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Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 110 mins
Total: 2 hrs 20 mins
Servings: 8 servings

Georgia has a rich culinary tradition from which Russia has borrowed liberally. There are many variations of kharcho from family to family and region to region. Also called harco, kharcho is a warming, satisfying soup made with a protein or meat, nuts, a fruit leather or puree, cilantro, spices, and rice. 

There are many variations of kharcho and a bowl may differ from household to household. THe flavors are deep, rich, and a warm bowl is super comforting. Any meat can be used, but we use lamb in this variation. Some kharchos are more stew than soup. Some of the spices involved are saffron, fenugreek, and coriander, which add a complex flavor profile. Kharcho is very hearty and sometimes uses a unique technique of thickening the soup with ground nuts. Of course, you could also make a vegetarian kharco. Some serve kharco with bread, khahchapuri, or ghomi, which is a type of polenta

What is unequivocal is the use of tklapi, a dried sour plum roll (like fruit leather) available at import shops. If you can't find it, modern cooks use tamarind paste (available at Indian grocers) or a lot of lemon juice.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds lamb shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

  • 2 ounces butter

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed

  • 8 cups water or stock

  • 1 teaspoon salt, optional

  • 8 ounces chopped sour plum roll (tklapi)

  • 1/2 cup rice, washed and drained

  • 1/4 cup chopped dill, for garnish

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Dredge lamb cubes in flour. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt butter and brown lamb cubes on all sides.

  3. Add onion, tomato paste, and garlic, and sauté 2 minutes, adding more butter, if necessary.

  4. Add water or stock and 1 teaspoon optional salt. Bring to a boil, skimming any foam that rises to surface, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 1 1/2 hours.

  5. Add plum roll and rinsed and drained rice. Return to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent rice from sticking to bottom of pan. If soup becomes too thick, add more stock or water.

  6. Serve in heated bowls and garnish with chopped dill, if desired.