Monday, 24 December 2012

Chakhokhbili: a Georgian chicken stew

First things first: this is not my recipe. It's not even my take on a classic recipe. It's a minor reorganisation of recipes for chakhokhbili and ajika which can be found by clicking on the words.
It's worth mentioning, though, that ajika isn't restricted to Georgia - Yuliya remembers ajika from her youngest days in southern Ukraine - and chakhokhbili has similarly spread from its country of origin. It's also worth reiterating the point that tinned tomatoes won't give the same result as fresh ones here: the extra effort will be more than repaid if you're cooking small amounts.
Right. That's all the warnings done. Yuliya had this dish on a trip to Crimea some years ago and found it so mouthwatering that it sings even now. I didn't quite scale the heights with my first attempt - I suspect that adding the tomato juice as suggested in the first recipe made everything a bit too watery - but the flavours were good enough to hint that a return match might soon be in order.

Serves two

    For the stew

Two or three chicken thighs/drumsticks per person, skin-on, on the bone
A bunch each of basil, coriander, parsley, dill and tarragon
Six medium tomatoes
A large onion
Two bay leaves
Olive oil for frying

    For the ajika

I've copied and pasted the ingredients here, so you can basically ignore the quantities on the herbs: if you've bought a bunch of coriander and basil for the stew, above, just stick to the proportions shown.
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/2 cup fresh coriander
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
3 garlic cloves
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 fresh red chillis, halved and deseeded
2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Make the ajika first. Grind the coriander seeds and fenugreek seeds with a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder. Finely chop the herbs just for the ajika. Bung everything into a food processor and blend to a fairly smooth consistency. Put it in a dish in the fridge.
Skin, deseed and chop the tomatoes. Chop the onion. Heat the oil in a sautée pan, for which you have a lid, on a medium-high heat and cook the chicken till sealed and golden.
Turn the heat down to low-medium, then add the onion and fry till softened. Add the tomatoes and juice, together with the bay leaves. Mix, cover, then turn the heat right down. Leave for an hour or so. The chicken should be falling off the bones.
Now for the herbs. The quantities are up to you, but I would suggest the following proportions - parsley 3 basil 2 coriander 2 dill 2 tarragon 1. Chop them finely and stir into the stew, together with a hefty tablespoon of ajika. Season well, re-cover and allow to sit for fifteen minutes, off the heat.

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