Let me first say that I have never been to Georgia. Well, I’ve been to the state that’s just north of Florida, but rather I’ve never visited the Republic of Georgia. It’s small country at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. I remember hearing of a revolution there in the early 2000’s. That’s about all I know of it. So why am I posting a recipe for this sauce? It has to do with a boy.
He was one of those guys who you just know is wrong for you, but you can’t help falling for anyway. He was (frighteningly) smart, sensitive, and had adorably floppy brown hair. He was multi-talented, yet unfocused. He smoked a lot of pot. He was my boss’ son. Like I said, wrong in so many ways.
When he was in high school he was an exchange student and lived with a Georgian family in Russia. When we were dating one of the few things he cooked for me was tkemali. It’s a condiment that’s used in Georgia like ketchup in America. It is savory, so unripe plums are best for the recipe, but sweet ones work just as well. I love the beautiful hue of the sauce, which is why I use red plums instead of green.
On a side note, my husband never talks about any of his past girlfriends. Ever. He’s a musician. He’s cute. He played a lot of clubs in his twenties. I know he has exes, but he never mentions them. So I always feel a little weird when I talk about one of mine.
adapted from The Georgian Feast, by Darra Goldstein as seen here
Tkemali goes great with just about any grilled or roasted meat. It is meant to be tart. However, if the flavor is too tart for your liking, you can stir in 1 tsp of sugar before chilling the sauce.
- Cut the plums in half and remove the pits. Place in a saucepan with the water and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, or until soft.
- In a mortar with a pestle, pound together the coriander, fennel seed, garlic, cayenne, and salt to make a fine paste. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, place the ingredients in a small plastic sealable bag and crush with a rolling pin.
- Remove plums from the water and place them in a food mill. Reserve plum juice for another use. Work the plums through the food mill. Place the pulp in a clean saucepan; discard the skins. (If you don't have a food mill, peel the skins off by hand, and puree plums in a blender.)
- Bring the plum pulp to a boil and reduce heat to medium. Cook for about 5 minutes, until sauce has begun to thicken up. Stir in the ground spices and continue cooking until the mixture thickens more, another 5 minutes or so.
- Remove saucepan from heat. Stir in the mince mint and cilantro. Pour into a heatproof container. Chill.