Georgian BBQ Pork and Plum Sauce

You may remember the post I wrote about the food markets in Georgia. There was also a post about the wine, for which I am sorry. If you’re particularly on the ball, you may have picked up on the fact that the post on Georgian food a whole 2 months ago was appended with the words ‘Part 1′. Ahem. Tum ti tum…

Of course you’ve all been e-mailing saying, ‘Helen, where is part two? We’re hanging on your every word oh wise one.’ Or not. One of the two. Anyway. So. Right. Georgian food, Part 2, plus, plus some recipes. Gawd, I’m good to you. You’ve no idea what Georgian food is like? Of course you don’t. No-one does until they visit or come into contact with someone who has lived there or is like, properly Georgian and really, how often does that happen?

So when I was in Georgia I went to a lot of meals called supras which are basically big feasts. There are lots of toasts during these feasts because the Georgians are well into toasting; I’m talking raising a glass and saying nice words here rather than burning pieces of bread. So they toast their ancestors and their friends but most of all they toast you because they consider guests to be ‘gifts from God’. It’s all rather overwhelming. Then they do this polyphonic singing thing which is rather moving too and before you know it you’ve made 10 new best friends and then 15 minutes later you decide they are actually your new family and you’re welling up and no it isn’t anything at all to do with the wine (little bit).

So I’ve been thinking a lot about Georgian food since my visit. I’ve cooked a Georgian meal with Kirstin Rodgers and I’ve visited a Georgian restaurant. The latter was very disappointing; they tried to make the food sort of ‘posh Georgian’, which totally misses the point. It’s like trying to do Caribbean fine dining or something (I had a heated discussion with someone about that once – different story). Anyway, there are a few recipes I’ve been meaning to lock down at home, like the BBQ pork and plum sauce I’m going to bang on about shortly. First though I’m going to tell you about some other things I ate and enjoyed and want to cook.

Kachapuri, or to give it its proper name ‘salty cheese bread’ (possibly the other way around). My salt tolerance soared in Georgia, which is truly saying something. I bought 3 slabs of this bread back with me and feasted on it, cold, for a couple of days until I started to feel sick and thought I might get food poisoning. Then I went to intensive care and was put on a drip due to dehydration (possible lie).

These ball thingies are called phkali and are made from ground walnuts (walnuts grow in Georgia so feature heavily), puréed veg such as spinach or beetroot, garlic and loads of herbs like coriander and dill. These would not be out of place at an Iranian meal; Georgian food has a lot in common with Iranian food actually, in that they use loads of fresh herbs, ground nuts, pomegranates, aubergine, yoghurt…

Behold! The buffalo milk yoghurt that brought me back from the brink of a hangover; I mean, I was actually at the crossroads, staring down the road of no return and then a shining white light started calling from a distance, ‘Helen? Heelleeeeeeen?’ The voice of soothing, stomach settling buffalo milk yoghurt. The Georgian mineral water has the same healing properties, FYI, drinkers, but it does taste pretty funky. Go with the yoghurt.

These meat dumplings are called khinkali; you hold them by the top nipply bit and eat them very carefully because they are filled with hot stock. I found this out the hard way, surprise surprise. Greedy. Impatient. Predictable. Then there’s some minced meat to enjoy, which is flavoured strongly with black pepper. I really enjoyed the fact that pepper was the main flavouring actually.

And so we arrive at the BBQ pork, which is grilled on mahoosive skewers as per the top photo and garnished with chopped shallots. The marinade I made is basically a load of this awesome chilli powder mix I bought in the market in Tbilisi (I think substitute with really good quality chilli flakes, mild chilli powder and salt) mixed with ground coriander, onion, garlic and a load of oil and vinegar. I actually didn’t mean to use as much vinegar as I did but I had a little jib out when pouring and sloshed a load in by mistake. This turned out to be quite the happy accident as it really tenderised the meat to silly levels and tasted rather awesome. Here’s my batch…

I served it with the plum sauce (tkemali); there are red and green versions, with the former being sweeter. Mine turned out kind of orange. Hey ho. Obviously I had to use whatever plums I could find which was okay because recipes online all advised ‘just use unripe plums’. In June in the UK? No problemo. I grabbed the nearest supermarket punnet.

The finished sauce tastes quite tart and sort of musty in a good way, down to the ground coriander and heavy use of dill. It goes really well with grilled meat, particularly pork, which loves a bit of tangy fruit action. I was pretty chuffed with how well this turned out to be honest. It tasted almost identical to the stuff we had in Georgia.

So there’s the story of how I threw some stuff in a pot and it came out really well by accident. Ta-da!

Georgian BBQ Pork 

1kg pork fillet, cubed
1 onion, grated (if you can bear doing this..otherwise very finely chop)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons Georgian chilli spice mix (sub with chilli flakes, mild chilli powder and some extra salt)
2 teaspoons ground coriander
4 tablespoons oil (any, really, apart from extra virgin)
4 tablespoons vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
Salt (loads)
Black pepper

Shallots, to serve

Mix all the marinade ingredients together. Mix the marinade with the pork. Leave to marinate for a couple of hours (not sure what would happen overnight to be honest, the vinegar does tenderise the meat a lot in just a couple of hours). Skewer the meat and BBQ it. Garnish with chopped shallots.

Georgian Plum Sauce (I used this recipe from the New York Times but messed about with it and subbed things in because I was in someone else’s house and they didn’t have the right stuff)

500g random unripe plums (supermarket ideal for this)
Juice 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar (not sure this makes any difference but put it in anyway)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes (think I used chilli powder or paprika or something)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin (I used a bit more)
2 tablespoons each finely chopped coriander and dill (I upped the dill)
Salt and pepper
Sugar (it will need some sugar to balance it but the sauce should still be quite sour)

Plunge plums into boiling water then drain, get as much skin off as you can and attempt to remove the stones. I had to randomly hack the flesh off as best I could because trying to get stones out of unripe plums is pretty impossible.

Chuck everything apart from the fresh herbs in a pot with a mug full of water and cook it until the plums are all mushy. You’re supposed to blend it but I couldn’t find a blender in my mate’s house so I just kind of mashed them up with a fork and actually it was rather nice with a few chunks. Adjust sugar, lemon juice, seasoning balance, add the fresh herbs and voila! Georgian plum sauce. Let it cool down to room temperature before serving.

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50 thoughts on “Georgian BBQ Pork and Plum Sauce

  1. Hachapuri (and Georgian food in general) literally saved my life when I spent a year in Moscow in the early nineties. The food was pretty terrible apart from Pizza Xat (I kid you not) and the two Georgian restaurants we found. Even so, and despite drinking my own body weight in vodka, Georgian wine and Russian champagne on a regular basis, I lost about two stone in weight.

    I have such fond memories of hachapuri. The sainted Ottolenghi has a recipe for them in his new book, Jerusalem, btw.

    Loving the blog btw!

  2. Hi Helen,

    my sister has married a Georgian (although he prefers to call himself Russian…) and now lives over there. I visited for their wedding last year and absolutely FELL for this sauce. I brought some back but treasured it for a few months before opening it and realising it had mould growing in it! And now I can make it! I adored the rolled up aubergines with walnut sauce, I think at the wedding I gobbled down half of all the ones on the table. When my brother-in-law came to visit my family prepared khinkali for us and let’s just say it was fun eating them. Lovely flavour though. As for kachapuri… I ate it on the first day, and then I was done. Too much salt, too much grease. Not for me!

    Thanks for this post, it brought back some lovely memories!

    1. Hi Roberta, thanks so much for your lovely comment. I hear you on the kachapuri but I do like my salt you see. I saw some green plums in Peckham the other day and will give them a try too to see how the sauce turns out but this does taste almost exactly the same. Enjoy!

  3. This was absolutely delicious. The sauce was so tasty and the pork was done to perfection. My husband raved about the dish. Next time I prepare this dish I’ll make the sauce the day before to save time in the kitchen….and I will definitely make this again and soon!

  4. I am sooooooo beyond jealous of your Georgian travels – it’s in my top 3 list of places to visit (Georgia, Cuba, Japan, China, India). Absolutely love the food of Georgia – so interesting and so evocative of the history of the country – a bit of a melting pot. The Georgian people sound amazing as well – fiery and fascinating. So thanks for sharing – I got a Georgian fix from your lovely post.

    Have tried making khachapuri at home but it is difficult to make without the proper cheese. Have you tried Tblisi on the Holloway Road, for Georgian food? I haven’t been for a couple of years but their chicken and dill soup was mindblowingly memorable, and their khachapuri was everything you would want from salty, cheesy bread!

    1. Ha! A name. Wicked. I think the kachapuri we made were delicious (if a little chaotic in the making…), just not really the same as the ones we had in Georgia. Nice work on the eggs though…

  5. You had me at “salty cheesy bread” (well, you had me at the picture of the pork bbq tbh), is there anything better. It looks like a much classier and tastier version of my patented pitta, feta and onion toasties (as in cooked in the toaster) that are a late-night-no-time staple.

    I like the sound of the Georgians, they sound like ace people, and friendly too. Probably good that they have developed a miracle hangover cure too as all that hospitality can add up to much tipsiness.

    The recipe looks great, and like everyone above, i’m very pleased to have something to make with underripe plums.

    1. I am liking the sound of those toasties…although I’m more of an open the fridge and stuff whatever I can into my face kinda girl aka FRIDGE BUFFET. Still, always an exception to be made for toasted cheese.

  6. Nigella has a recipe for Kachapuri in “Feast”. She uses a mix of feta, mozzarella and ricotta (I think, too lazy to go over to the bookshelf to check!) to substitute for the proper Georgian stuff

    1. Oh really? I don’t have the book actually. I wish someone would make a Georgian style cheese here. It’s confusing though because the Georgian cheese we were served as is didn’t seem like a melter but the cheese in te kachapuri was melted. Must have been a mixture…I dunno.

  7. I’ve read a few posts and seen a doco on Geogian food recently and I can see that’s it’s something that will definitely become more known in the future. It all looks amazing and what I’ve tried is delicious.

    1. Yeah it’s a shame about the cheese. I can’t really think of anything similar. I mean halloumi obviously in terms of saltiness but the texture is so different. That Georgian book is bloody useless! The amount of times you’ve said ‘this recipe is wrong/doesn’t work’. Amazing.

  8. I think that I saw Helen’s book ‘101 Recipes for Shit Fruit’ on Amazon the other day. It was doing quite well in countries with cold climates. Got to grab a copy myself.

    1. It’s only available as an ebook at the mo so if you could all keep buying it I might eventually get published on like, paper and shiz. Apparently that’s what matters.

  9. Fabulous blog. I love your mad, drunken foodie ramblings. I’ve just started blogging because I need to up the profile for my book. Have you done a book? If not, you must and guess what? My fabulous agent lives in Peckham and she’s as posh as the Queen. It scared me shitless when I delivered my book. Keep it up, girl – thought you must be a bloke at first but not sure what that signifies? I’m about to look at Georgia holidays. Don’t suppose you took the kids, by chance?

    1. Thanks Gill, you’re very kind. Although not quite sure what to make of the bit about me being a bloke..I’ve decided to take it as a er, compliment. It will not surprise you to learn that I do not have children, surely?

  10. It’s been a very cold a miserable Spring here in Seattle. Chances are we will have a lot of green plums here too. Thanks for a great recipe to actually eat them rather than composting them. Also, I know nothing about Georgian cuisine. Thanks for writing such an informative post!

    1. Ah I’m glad you found it interesting and yes, perfect use for them! Might have to use quite a bit of sugar if they’re really green but I’m sure you could work that out anyway.

  11. That Georgian plum sauce was properly awesome, though the old lady that told me how she made it definitely didn’t mention ground cumin or coriander and she was quite a fan of putting parsley in it. Mind you given the linguistic issues….. Still quite annoyed that I wasn’t around for the pork bbq.

    1. Hmmmm I dunno. The ground coriander seems pretty essential to me although I wouldn’t miss the cumin. As for the parsley, I guess knock yourself out old lady…can’t imagine it without the dill, though. Both, maybe? Wish I’d bought some in the market…

  12. Sharmila beat me to it RE: the similarities between the khinkali and xiao long bao. I wonder who came up with the idea first? Did some peeps from Shanghai get stranded in Georgia, or vice versa?

  13. This looks awesome. And I like the fact the Georgians appear to have a sense of humour, having come up with their own version of that sneaky Chinese snack, the xiao long bao – the only dumpling that has the potential to squirt molten broth down your shirt or in your eye.

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