Friday, January 20, 2006

Chakhohbili alias Georgian chicken with herbs and wine

I started this foodblog back in June and if I remember correctly, then one of the first comments I left on another blog was avidly defending Georgian cuisine. It's not that I'm an expert on that particular cuisine, but I happily visit the few Georgian (and other Caucasian) restaurants in Tallinn when I have a chance. During my teenage years I lived in a block of flats where our next door neighbours were a stern Russian physics professor (he) and an extremely lively and charming Georgian journalist and theatre critic (she). She was a good cook. I can almost say that I grew up smelling the delicious aromas of Georgian cuisine on a daily basis...

Not sure why, but the recent avian flu scares - which in theory should make me not to want to eat poultry - have had exactly the opposite effect on me. I've been craving chicken for weeks, and last weekend had a go. I did make sure my chicken came from a reputable local organic source and I cooked chicken two days in a row - a Georgian chicken stew on Saturday (to precede the yummy fig tarts) and a somewhat disappointing Caribbean coconut chicken on Sunday (I'm still trying to figure out whether it was me or the recipe).

The following recipe for a Georgian chicken stew is based on quite a few sources, including Clarissa Hyman's The Jewish Kitchen: Recipes and Stories from Around the World, as well as various Estonian sources. Clarissa Hyman's recipe was probably most useful in terms of which seasonings to use, although the way she included potatoes in her stew was ubiquous, to say the least. I compared, combined and tweaked the various recipes to what I had on hand. Traditionally a whole cut-up chicken is first dry fried in the saucepan before other ingredients are added. I used chicken breasts. To boost the chicken flavour that would have otherwise come from the bones and skin, I added some fresh chicken gravy. The resulting stew was really flavoursome and tasty, and seemed pretty authentic - though adapted - to all eaters. And I think Eteria, my neighbour, would have approved.

Georgian chicken with herbs and wine - Chakhokhbili

500 grams chicken breast fillets, cut into large chunks
2 Tbsp sunflower oil
2 chopped large onions
1 chopped garlic clove
400 grams chopped tomatoes (or couple of peeled fresh tomatoes)
100 ml fresh chicken stock
100 ml medium-bodied red wine
2 bay leaves
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp crushed coriander seeds
1 tsp crushed fenugreek seeds (optional)
salt and black pepper
a very generous cupful of fresh herbs (CORIANDER/CILANTRO, TARRAGON, mint, basil, dill, parsley - it MUST include the herbs in capital letters, otherwise it's not even remotely authentic. I used the whole lot apart from mint.)

Heat the oil in a thick saucepan. Add chicken and fry on a medium heat until slightly browned all over.
Add onions, stir for a few minutes. Add garlic and saute, until onion has softened a little.
Add the chilli flakes, coriander and fenugreek*, stir for a few seconds to release aromas. Add tomatoes, fresh chicken stock and wine together with bay leaves. Season. Bring to a simmer, cover the saucepan with a lid and cook for 30-45 minutes (or more, if you wish), stirring every now and then, until the sauce is reduced to a thick glossy sauce.
Remove the bay leaves and add the fresh herbs. Stir and cover for 10 minutes, so the flavours can infuse. Season again, if necessary.
Serve with boiled rice or potatoes, garnish with lemon slices.

* If you can get hold of the Georgian spicy relish, adjika, then use this one instead of the spices (a tablespoon or two, depending on your taste).


Stephanie said...

That looks extremely tasty. I think I just have to add it to my Must Try list now.

And I know what you mean. When the mad cow disease struck, I ended up craving beef something severe!

Anonymous said...

Looks and sounds delicious!

Kalyn Denny said...

This sounds wonderful. I love cilantro, but I haven't ever paired it with some of these other herbs. I agree with MM, this has to get bookmarked under must try.

Anonymous said...

Dear Pille, you are amazing!
Not only for the actual contents of this blog (the recipes) but for being so incredibly resourceful and a constant surprise.

Really good job.

rlf said...

Hell Pille,
Thanks for the site. I find the cabbage recipe, i did'nt put cinnamon stick when i cooked it, but the taste good anyway.
It is really good as sidedish on roast dishes.
I'm new in food blog! More power to you.

Anonymous said...

What a passionate defence of Georgian cuisine ... it looks incredible!

(I love your blog!)

Anonymous said...

Do you know that as a result of that 'conversation' you and J had, I went out and bought a Georgian cookbook? It's absolutely fascinating, though I haven't yet cooked anything from it. Maybe this is the inspiration I need! I was surprised to find some Georgian bottled sauces in Jenners food hall - have you had a look there? Oh, and I'm sorry to hear that that recipe from Eat Caribbean didn't turn out well - which one was it? I still haven't tried anything from it either.

Anonymous said...

I should be the one worry about the chicken
I invited my friend for roast chicken
she said not to chicken
I said its organic not turkish hahaha

still NO.

This recipe has bountiful of herbs here... must be tasty.
I got a Greek Jewish recipe book... there are still few nos of Greek Jew up in the north.

Happy Weekend

Clivia said...

Hi Pille,
I just tagged you for a cookbook meme, anser it if and when you have time!

Joycelyn said...

hi pille, i still smile when i think of our little exchange ;)georgian cooking is surely awaiting greater discovery - and thanks to all your lovely entries, we all get a taste of it...

Anonymous said...

Delicious-looking and sounding! Glad you've posted this recipe!


Pille said...

Mm - let me know when you decide to make it! I'm not a big beef eater, but I guess your beef craving at that time was pretty similar to my poultry hunger:)

Rorie - thanks!

Kalyn - thanks for including this in your Weekend Herb Blogging round-up!

Giacomo - grazie! You see, I'm not just a studious student, am i:)

Relly - I'm glad you found the recipe now. It was quite easy to google: Tina's name and cabbage did the job:) I'm sure you'll enjoy foodblogging a lot!

Ivonne - thanks for your kind words - am quite surprised how 'defensive' I feel about this rather exotic cuisine:)

Melissa - I haven't seen Darra Goldstein's book myself, maybe I could borrow it from you for a few days? The recipe I tried from the Caribbean book was the Coconut chicken rundown or sth similar. There were some weird quantity conversions (if you compare metric and imperial, they don't match at all!!!) and I'm not sure why not simply write "180 ml coconut milk" as opposed to "180 ml coconut milk powder" and then instruct to make it into a milk "as described". I used creamed coconut and was trying to think how much coconut milk would 180 ml coconut milk powder yield in the first place:)

Sha - I don't think this recipe is Jewish, it just happened to be a Jewish cookbook that mentioned something Georgian Jews would cook. It is very much a Georgian dish. I do know about the Jews up in the North, especially near Salonika. I dated a guy from the region:) and also read Claudia Roden's fabulous and informative "The Book of Jewish Food". It has lots of recipes from the Greek Jews that I've bookmarked.. Maybe we can compare notes one day:)

Clivia - thanks for tagging me. Time is a scarce resource at the moment, as I've just started a new research post and it takes time to get into it, but I'll try!

J - well, you and Melissa could try something from Darra Goldstein's book maybe? :)

Paz - you're very welcome!

hadley said...

I made this recipe last week and it was delicious, and excellent as leftovers over pasta. (Thank you for posting it... I had chakhohbili at Pomegranate in San Diego years ago and always wondered if I could find a recipe for it.)