Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Beef and Rice Soup

There is a joke: one sushi restaurant in Europe extended an invitation to a well-known sushi chef from Japan to visit their place and give his opinion on the menu. They served him a plate of their best sushi. He sampled everything they brought and the manager asked:"Well, how is our sushi?"  And he said:"I haven't tried it yet but I really enjoyed what you served me so far" :)
I think this kind of situation happens all the time when you serve what you think is an authentic dish to a person, whose country this dish originates from. They are always going to say it is not a real thing. I learned this lesson long ago... Actually, no. My mom was teaching me for a long time, that I should often change the name of the recipe so people don't compare it to anything. But of course I didn't listen - I learned it the hard way:)
This dish is the result of my attempts to recreate the soup my grandfather used to cook for me when I was little. It is from Caucasian (Georgian) cuisine and is called Kharcho ("beef soup"). It is quite a piquant soup with lots of spices and greens. I can not call Kharcho the soup that I made following the recipe below, because it doesn't taste like Kharcho at all, but is pretty yummy and aromatic. I mean, the ingredients are the same, but it doesn't taste how my grandfather's soup did. How can this be? But it doesn't matter, I'll work on my authentic Kharcho's recipe, and let's call this particular soup Beef and Rice Soup, shall we? :) Enjoy!

10 cups water
1 lb beef stew
5 whole black peppers
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup rice
1 onion
1/4 tbsp whole wheat flour
3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup walnuts, blended until resembles breadcrumbs
1 tsp hmeli-suneli (spices combination, can be found in European stores)
8 oz tomato sauce
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp of lemon juice
10 tbsp pomegranate juice
1/4 tsp paprika
ground black pepper

Wash the meat and place it in a cooking pot with whole peppers and bay leaves. Add water and put it on the stove. When it starts boiling, lower the heat and with a large spoon or a skimmer skim off any foam that forms on the surface. In approximately 20 minutes, put rice in a pot. 
Meanwhile heat the oil in a pan and add onion. Cook it for 5-6 minutes and stir in the flour. Mix well and transfer to a plate. Cook garlic in the same pan for a couple of minutes. Add onion, garlic, walnuts, hmeli-suneli, tomato paste  and sauce to the soup. Stir in lemon juice, pomegranate juice, paprika, salt and pepper and cook for 10 more minutes. Turn off the heat and cover. Add the parsley, basil and cilantro and let it stand for 5-10 minutes for the flavors to develop.


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