Sunday, August 26, 2012

Beetroot pkhali, or Georgian beet salad with walnuts and herbs

GEORGIAN FEAST: beetroot pkhali/ beet mkhali GRUUSIA PIDU: peedi-phali

There have been no beetroot recipes on Nami-Nami recently. I wrote about the wonderful Persian dish, beetroot borani, back in May, but that's three months ago! Me thinks there's definitely time for another beet dish, or I'm in danger of losing my Beetroot Princess* title :)

A fortnight ago we hosted a Georgian feast in our backyard, and one of the many Georgian dishes I prepared was this simple and stunning-looking pkhali, made with beetroot. Pkhali is a Georgian vegetable dish that's something between a salad, dip or even spread, depending on the consistency you choose; the characteristic feature is the aromatic garlic-walnut-herb dressing. (You may have come across an alternative spelling, mkhali. That's the Russian name for this Caucasian salad.) The most popular are beetroot pkhali and spinach pkhali, but one can also use cabbage, eggplant/aubergine, red kidney beans or other vegetables. At any Georgian feast, you would usually find a selection of pkhakli-dishes to sample. I've provided a number of links at the end of the post, if you wish to explore further.

Ideally you'd roast your own beets for the best flavour, but I've used pre-cooked (organic) beets on couple of occasions and I doubt anyone noticed, really.

Charklis pkhali aka Georgian beet salad with walnuts and herbs
(Gruusia peedisalat kreeka pähklitega)
Serves about six or many more as part of a buffét table

GEORGIAN FEAST: beetroot pkhali / Beet mkhali / GRUUSIA PIDU: peedisalat phali / charklis phali  

500 g beets/beetroot

100 g walnuts
3 to 4 garlic cloves
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
a handful of fresh parsley
a handful of fresh coriander/cilantro
0.5 tsp dried savoury
0.5 tsp ground coriander seeds
about a Tbsp of good-quality red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar

If you're using raw beets, then scrub them clean and wash thoroughly, wrap into a piece of foil and bake in a pre-heated 180C/350F oven for 60 to 90 minutes, until the beets are cooked. Cool, peel and grate finely.
If you're using boiled beets, then grate them finely and let drain on a sieve for a while, to get rid of any excess moisture (you can press the beets even drier with your hands or a wooden spoon).
At the same time place the walnuts, garlic cloves and a generous pinch of salt into a food processor and process into coarse paste. Add the coriander/cilantro leaves and parsley, process again for a short while.
(You can obviously use the good old pestle and mortar to make that walnut and garlic paste).
In a big bowl, mix the grated beets, walnut-garlic-herb paste and the rest of the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper according to taste. Be cautious with the vinegar - pkhali needs to be slightly acidic, but never vinegary, and the exact amount depends on the sweetness of your roasted or cooked beetroots.
Cover the bowl and transfer into the fridge or cold larder for 2-6 hours - this "waiting time" is necessary for the flavours to mingle and develop.
To serve**, form the pkhali into small balls (optional) and place onto your serving plate. Garnish with pomegranate seeds, thinly sliced red onion or chopped of spring onion/scallion.
Serve at room temperature.

* My friend Alanna of A Veggie Venture is the reigning Beet Queen, remember :)

** Alternatively, spread the pkhali evenly on a plate, then make a diamond pattern on the spread with the edge of your knife before garnishing (see Melissa's spinach pkhali link below as an example). Of course, you can also simply spoon the pkhali into a suitably sized bowl.

More pkhali recipes: 
Spinach pkhali @ The Traveler's Lunchbox
Spinach pkhali balls @ Jeanette's Healthy Living
Beetroot pkhali @ Winter Skies, Kitchen Aglow
Beet pkhali  @ Stay for Tea
Spinach pkhali @ Delicious Georgian Recipes
Spinach Pkhali, Cabbage Pkhali, Beet Pkhali  @ Food


Katrina said...

Oh how lovely! We've been making quite a lot of Georgian dips lately like lobio so this one is great as a canapé!

Tanita said...

Those look really tasty - like the beetroot dumplings we had in Germany. -t

Alanna said...

The crown is in contention ... Plus I am intrigued by how many Georgian recipes are SO appealing ! Must dig deeper!

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Best Mexican Restaurants said...

Seems to be a great recipe, will surely like trying this out and baking some walnuts with herbs.

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