Georgian holiday feast, part III


Continued from Part I and Part II

According to what I've read and seen, tkemali, or Georgian sour plum sauce, is the "salsa" of Georgia, appearing on many dishes and in many, many variations. Since this had been the whole inspiration for this meal, I whipped some up. We served this over a simple roast chicken and salmon, in order to cover both the meat and fish eaters: just salt & pepper and butter as seasonings, since the plum sauce is potent enough on its own. Recipe follows.

Finally, we couldn't possibly have an Eastern European meal without dessert! My sweetie prepared dessert, like usual. Here she turned to the Russian Heritage Cookbook, and put together a cheesecake with a cookie dough crust. The original cheesecake recipe called for Tvarog, a fine-curd buttermilk cheese which we couldn't easily get in Oregon. But hey, it's easy, let's make it! We consulted an online recipe from Urban Cheesecraft, and tried to whip up a batch. Unfortunately, the recipe isn't so great; the cooking time and temperature are off, and the yield for the recipe is way lower than stated. So, we used the backup cottage cheese.

russian cheesecake

The cheesecake was excellent nevertheless. We served it topped with jam, as appropriate for a Russian meal.

Sour Red Plum Sauce (Tkemali)

1 quart sour red plum puree and juice
3-5 cloves garlic, mashed
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 to 1 tsp hot paprika or Aleppo pepper (to taste)
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup finely chopped mint leaves
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro (optional)
2-3 Tbs lemon juice (optional, see below)

Place all ingredients except the mint in a small pot, over medium-low heat. Simmer gently until reduced in volume by 1/3, about 30 minutes. Add the mint. Put away in a container to cool. Serve at room temperature as a sauce on meat, fish, or red beans.

Notes: If you can't get sour plums, add 2-3 Tbs lemon juice to the plum puree. To get the plum puree and juice, stew 2 to 3 lbs small red sour plums (use wild plums, or just underripe commercial ones) for 1/2 hour. Drain, mash, and push through a food mill. Traditionally, the mint used in this recipe would be pennyroyal, but regular spearamint works fine.