While sorting through the treasures in my beloved grandmother’s attic, I stumbled upon a small, pristine women’s library. In it, I found not only a household management guide for neighboring housewives but also a rare, well-worn cookbook from the 1940s. The classic kharcho from this collection exceeded all my expectations.
Admittedly, the publishing year was quite challenging. In many regions of the vast Union, there was a general scarcity of food, not to mention any culinary luxuries. However, according to my grandmother’s fond memories, these cookbooks were often used to stimulate appetite rather than for experimental purposes. Still, she managed to prepare kharcho occasionally.
Here’s how to make classic kharcho according to the 1940 recipe:
The traditional Caucasian soup according to the 1940 recipe doesn’t differ significantly from many contemporary variations. Naturally, you’ll need a good piece of beef, preferably with bones, as well as vegetables, rice, authentic spices, and a fragrant bunch of cilantro. Ready to get started?
Beef: 1.5 kg
Tomato paste: 70 g
Rice: 100 g
Cilantro: 1 bunch
Khmeli-suneli: 1 tsp
Coriander: 1 tsp
Water: 4 liters
Chili pepper: 1
Bay leaves: 3
Cut the beef into pieces and place it in a pot. Add water and bring it to a boil covered over high heat. Remove the foam, then reduce the heat to medium. Add bay leaves, chili pepper, and 2 peeled onions to the broth. Cook the soup for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, tear 30 g of sour plum paste into small pieces and soak it in a ladle of broth to soften. Alternatively, you can use sour plum paste. Pour some of the broth into a separate skillet.
In the broth, sauté finely chopped leftover onions. If they start to brown, add some butter to the skillet. Add tomato paste to the onions and mix. Retrieve the meat from the pot and separate it from the bones.
Strain the broth through a sieve to remove any impurities. Also, remove the onion, pepper, and bay leaves from the broth. Place the prepared meat, sautéed onions, and rice back into the pot with the broth. Cook for about 15 minutes, adding water if necessary.
Add a small amount of softened sour plum paste to the kharcho. Monitor the acidity of the dish; don’t add too much paste. Add salt or spices. Stir. Let the soup simmer for 10 minutes.
You’re on the home stretch. At the end of the cooking process, all that’s left is to add pressed garlic and crushed fresh tomatoes to the kharcho, and sprinkle it with cilantro. There’s no need to cook it any longer. Let the kharcho sit for a bit and then serve it to the table. Enjoy your meal!