Category Archives: spicy

Sweet Meets Heat: How to Make Chilies Infused Honey


Homemade chili-infused honey DIY © http://www.letsheatit.com/
Contrary to what I used to think about the process of making spice infused honey (special room, special temperature, special honey, number of days), it takes only a few minutes to infuse the honey of your choice with chilies, leaving you with a wonderful jar of gold you can drizzle on pizzas, cakes, cheeses or add to salads, soups and stews or your next mojito for a touch of character.  It is not overly spicy (with the amount of chilies used in the recipe below): the chilies infused honey will still keep all the flavor nuances of the terroir the honey came from (if it wasn’t pasteurized) with just a bit of warming lingering spice finish. It totally satisfies my latest indie-influenced take on all things organic.
Honey: from bumblebee to the toast © http://www.letsheatit.com/
While honey continues ‘hitting its sweet spot’ as a flavor of the year 2015 (according to the Swiss company Firmenich specialized in flavors and fragrances), the interest in it expands beyond the tea-time companionship worldwide. Honey is surely set to add some extra charm and wit to the menus helping chefs to bliss out the clientele with all kinds of innovative dressings, glaze, BBQ sauces and marinade combinations. Honey is being added to the ‘glass with class’ by mixologists (from Mead cocktails to Honey vodka and Honey Bee-jito (mojito drink where honey replaces sugar) to Honey Lemonade and Kombucha Smoothies, etc. The honey producers are coming up with numerous amazing products, such as these incredible creamy strawberry honey and raspberry honey jelly we found at Miel pur delice inc. during our last trip to Coaticook, QC.
Miel pur delice inc. creamy strawberry honey and raspberry honey jelly © http://www.letsheatit.com/
I might be a fickle friend with ice cream and milk chocolate, but when it comes to the real honey (raw, naturally,) I’m Ted 1, Ted 2 and whatever other Teds you can imagine. I eat honey every day, all my life and, practically, I can‘t imagine living without it… which is probably normal since I am of the Ukrainian origin. In short: we are planning to raise honeybees when retired and I hope nothing will change this agenda.
Ukrainian postal stamps © via Wikimedia
See the typical Ukrainian honey layered cake below made by one of my best friends recently (don’t ask for the recipe though – it takes a whole day to make it – no one can do that bravery anymore). 
Nata’s Honey Layered Cake © http://www.letsheatit.com/
In the meantime, here are the three places in Quebec we‘ve visited recently that are not to miss:
1. Miels d’Anicet  Api Culture Hautes-Laurentides inc.111, Rand 2 Gravel, Ferme-Neuve, Quebec
Canada, J0W 1C0 (one of the top-rated and the most popular honey used by Quebec chefs; read more about it here). Tel: (819) 587-4825

2. Miel des Ruisseaux 2 924, Route du Lac Ouest, Alma (Québec)
G8B 5V2 Tel: (418) 668-7734 (famous blueberry honey producer: read more about here and here).

Miel des Ruisseaux Blueberry Honey © http://www.letsheatit.com/

3. Miel pur delice inc. 815 route 141, Coaticook (Québec) J1A 2S5, Tel:(819) 849-9994 (see some of their products featured above)

Many others are on our bucket list and will show up in this space eventually.

For my own experiment, I used the honey coming from the land of blueberries: Saguenay – Lac Saint Jean wild blueberry blossom honey from Miel des ruisseaux (fyi: the blueberries are being harvested there as I write this post), which recently became the proud member of ÉCONOMUSÉE network.
Wild blueberries in Saguenay – Lac Saint Jean © http://www.letsheatit.com/
Infusing the honey with chilis in a hot water bath (bain marie) doesn’t alter the taste of the honey: it just warms up and accentuates the blueberry notes (or any other notes of the honey you choose to make spicy) and the heat is very subtle.
DIY steps to make chili infused honey © http://www.letsheatit.com/
The chilies infused honey make an excellent alternative to some expensive commercial chilies infused honeys as well as the welcome condiment in the fridge to help you build some extraordinary flavors.
For some extremely haute cuisine take, lace it over fine brie or blue cheese finish on top of the raspberry almond tea cake – OUCH! Sooo decadent!
Spiced honey drizzled brie on top of the raspberry tea cake © http://www.letsheatit.com/
Or, have on a flaky breakfast pan-fried blistered breakfast bread – simply out of this world!
Flaky pan fried breakfast bread drizzled with spiced honey © http://www.letsheatit.com/
I hope you will enjoy this simple alchemy trick.
Chilies infused blueberry honey © http://www.letsheatit.com/
All the best dear readers.
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ADOBE CHILIES INFUSED HONEY*
Ingredients:
1 cup honey
Two medium-size dried adobe chili peppers, cut in pieces, OR 1 teaspoon dried crushed chili flakes
1 sterilized jar + lid
1 cheese cloth or fine mesh, to strain
Instructions:
Pour the honey into a ceramic heat proof bowl and stir the chili peppers in. Place the bowl into the hot water bath, bring the water to simmer and heat from 3-5 minutes (for less spicy honey) to 15 minutes (for the spicier version). Remove from heat and cool to the room temperature. Strain the honey through the cheese cloth or the fine mesh into the sterilized jar. Refrigerate overnight and store in the fridge for up to a month. Bring the spiced honey to the room temperature before serving or using in dessings, glaze or sauce.
*Feel free to experiment with any other dried or fresh spicy capsicums, including: jalapeno, scotch bonnet peppers, etc.

Pipin’ Coconut-n-Root Vegetable Curry Recipe


Baby, it’s cold out there! The Alaskan storm hiccup has just reached Eastern Canada with the brrr temperatures, even the first snow. Under these circumstances I’m sure I’m not the only one to resort to comfort eating. This recipe has been on my bucket list for a while and I wanted to share it eventually for all the right reasons. It’s vegetarian, comparatively light, highly dietetic and comforting, and can be easily complemented with multiple omnivore, vegan or pescatarian choices. I opted for the haddock fish to go with it, but you can choose tofu, chicken or any fondue-sliced meat, all of which can be sautéed in a few minutes with the spices of your choice.

A trip to the local farmers’ market…

A bunch of the root veggies and other bounty brought home…
A quick mental scan of what to do with them on a day like today…
IT’S GOTTA BE CURRY! From my personal experience, nothing can pick you up better than a savory-spicy curry during times of chilling humidity and/or a flu season. Just few spoons of it and you’re back to keep calm and carry on…
The versatility of this dish is incredible. Depending on the curry spices you use, it can take an Asian, Indian or Caribbean direction. I used Jamaican curry spice mix for this post, along with a dash of Scotch Bonnet pepper sauce to give it an obviously Jamaican flair . 
You can also easily incorporate any other fall veggies into it: from pumpkin to squash, broccoli, cauliflower or collard greens. Finally, you can swap canned chick peas with canned lentils, or beans if wish be.
Have any leftovers of this curry from Friday supper? Turn them into a fast and delicious take on a British Kedgeree for your week-end brunch by adding some cooked rice, boiled eggs and chopped greens. If you happen to have some smoked haddock in your fridge, team it up: it will make the dish outstanding (otherwise, canned tuna or salmon would be OK).
We all (me in particular – duh) need some kind of an immune booster at this time of the year. The combination of this curry’s ingredients provides it in abundance: from a support to digestion, to anti-inflammatory help, to giving more energy to the brain, to improving cholesterol ratios, to metabolic push and so on. And the coconut milk in this recipe is not just a healthy alternative to milk. It does magic marrying the spices and ingredients, softening the heat of the curry and adding delicate sweetness along with carrots and sweet potatoes.  
Serve the curry piping hot with or without the meat protein addition, garnished with fresh cilantro or parsley and lime wedges on a side. Enjoy!
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COCONUT & ROOT VEGETABLE CURRY
Yields: 4 portions
Ingredients:
For Curry:
1 big sweet potato, cut in small cubes
1 big potato, cut in small cubes
1 big carrot, cut in small cubes
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp crushed chili flakes
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 tbsp curry powder
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 can 19 oz chickpeas, drained
1 can 14 oz coconut milk
1 jalapeno pepper seeded and minced (or 1 tbsp Scotch Bonnet pepper sauce)
1 tsp fresh or dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 small bunch of cilantro for garnish
2-3 scallions for garnish
1-2 limes, cut in wedges
Additions:
4 fillet of white, not oily fish (haddock, cod, tilapia, etc.), sautéed in 1 tsp oil and seasoned
OR
4 chicken breasts escalopes, sautéed in 1 tsp oil and seasoned
Instructions:
Cover the potatoes and carrots with water in a small saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer for 3 minutes.  Drain and set aside.
In the meantime, add three tablespoons of oil to the Dutch oven or a big saucepan and bring to medium high.  Add chili flakes, onion, garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute. Add the curry powder.  Add the red pepper and mix.
Add potatoes and carrots and mix. Add chickpeas and mix. Add coconut milk and bring to boil. Add jalapeno and thyme. Bring to boil and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Garnish with cilantro and minced scallions. Serve hot in bowls with lime wedges on a side, topped with fish or chicken additions.

For Kedgeree:
Ingredients:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2 cups coconut and vegetable curry leftovers
1/3 cup of water
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 cups cooked rice of your choice, cold
1 cup smoked haddock (or canned tuna, or salmon), minced
2 boiled eggs, chopped
1 tsp cumin, ground
1 tsp coriander, ground
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lime, zested and juiced
2 tsp fresh cilantro or parsley, minced
Instructions:
Heat the big skillet or wok to medium-high and add olive oil and butter. Add coconut vegetable curry and mix. Add water and fish sauce. Bring the heat to high, add rice and keep mixing vigorously for 1 minute. Add fish, eggs, cilantro and spices. Keep mixing for one minute. Add lime zest, drizzle with lime juice and mix. Remove for the heat and serve hot garnished with cilantro or parsley. Serve hot.

No Problem Jamaican Jerk from Sunny Negril

Last weekend was blessed with sunshine, we needed so badly to catch up with endless home and garden chores and have the final year’s swim. We also made some excellent grill dedicated to Jamaican Jerk. Traditionally slow-cooked and smoked to delicious perfection, Jerk is a passport to Jamaican street food. This recipe was brought from sunny Negril. If you are anything like me, once you tried a real thing you would always want to make it at home. We make it in every season, even in winter, yes, that’s how much we like it. There is something magical about the jerk, something very West Indies about, embracing all traditional spices, condiments and the taste of Caribbean in general. And it’s super-hot! Nice green salad and beer are the must companions for the Jerk.
Away from wind, rain and cold and back to the happiest memories of so many wonderful vacations with friends and family… We are going to one of my favorite Caribbean food destinations, the reggae homeland, Jamaica. Mon, I love this country. It has everything the perfect vacation is about: clear waters, pristine beaches, lush islands, emerald rivers, fascinating falls, world’s best Blue Mountain coffee, reggae music, fun people and, of course, all kinds of JERK!
There is even a Jerk Trail guide mapwith few dozen of jerk eateries around the island featuring the best jerk dishes, which are not only limited to chicken, but also include pork, shrimp, sausage, even conch specialties. Particularly in Negril, I would currently also add my favorite 3 Dives and De Bar spots to the list of the most authentic Jamaican jerk experiences.
Something tells me a day on the beautiful beach followed by great local specialty sunset dinner to live reggae music for a pocket change is not only my idea of perfect. Speaking of the beach, the Seven Mile Beach in Negril is of course one of the best beaches in Jamaica (which is, reportedly and sadly, now slowly vanishing). Our favorite part of the beach stretch though is along the shore of the Bloody Bay lined in the forest of towering palms at the level of Breezes and Couples Negril hotels (the letter is hard to beat with their level of services and never disappoints).
No need to dress up, a nice barefoot walk in white powdery sand, with clear turquoise water lapping at your toes is all you need to discover the mini-Jamaica from day one: fresh breeze, smell of the pit-fire pimento leaves smoked Jerk, vendors and musicians in those quirky Jamaican hats, little food shacks made of the drift wood…

I’m still keeping one of the little bracelets the funky guy in marijuana glasses (he was smoking pot at the same time) was making for everyone passing by and just giving them away. For those interested, he was also giving a quick lecture about Rastafarianism…

And how about snorkeling, diving in caves, deep-sea fishing, scuba diving and some ocean horseback riding experiences – who on Earth can forget that thrill…

I’ve been to different parts of Jamaica and had some of the most authentic jerk experiences from street stands to beach shacks to dinner huts to hotels and restaurants. Every Jamaican chef has his/her own variation of marinade, but there are some key ingredients to it, including allspice (pimento), scallions, thyme, onion, ginger, lime and scotch bonnet peppers.

Warning: scotch bonnet peppers are extremely hot. If you don’t like it too hot and more than one scotch bonnet pepper sounds incendiary to you, limit the recipe to one scotch bonnet pepper only and then taste the marinade to figure out if you’d like to add a few more. Keep a bunch of Red Stripe beer in your fridge to cool down the flames Jamaican way.
Some Jamaican chefs like John Bull from Reggae Kitchen, don’t use ginger in marinade (he remarkably refers to his jerk prep as ‘maya-neering’ or, sometimes, ‘money-raiding’ (perhaps when he wants to share some ganja tales at the same time). Others, like the Carribeanpot Chef, do and my final collective and tested recipe is close to his.
Don’t be put off by the list of marinade ingredients. It really takes maximum 10 minutes to prepare, as long as you are mentally ready and the list is checked off. Just put everything except chicken in a food processor or blender, and puree the ingredients into the paste. Rub it into the chicken immediately and store in the fridge overnight.  Once the chicken is marinated, you can use the classic grill-smoking, oven-baking or pan-frying methods to cook it.
Note: slightly scoring chicken helps to improve the marination process.
Grilling Method:
Traditionally, the jerk is slowly cooked over the pit fire coals with lots of added smoke from pimento leaves.  At the end it’s supposed to be charred, but not over-charred. For additional smoke in your BBQ, add some smoke chips to the grill or place a piece of smoking wood (spraying it with water when it ignites).
Preheat the grill to medium-high or build a medium hot charcoal grill. Clean and lightly oil the grill. Place chicken skin side down, grill for 5 minutes to form the crust. Turn to the other side. Grill for another 5 minutes.  Cover the grill and lower the heat to the minimum. Continue grilling until cooked through for about 30-40 minutes, turning often to prevent burning. Alternatively, (and if/or pressed with other chores), you can transfer the 10-minutes grilled chicken to 350F oven and finish by baking it for 30-40 minutes.
Oven Method:
Preheat the oven to 400F. Place chicken in foiled and greased pan skin side up. Roast for 20 minutes. Turn chicken to the other side. Lower the heat to 350F and bake for another 15 minutes. Turn chicken back to skin side up and bake for another 15 minutes, or until cooked through and the juices are running clear. Transfer chicken to platter, cover loosely with foil and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Pan-Frying Method:
On a cold rainy night, try a simplified ‘spatchcocking’ (flattening) pan-fried method (I described previously in other chicken recipe) for faster and juicier results. Turn on the exhaust (you really need it for this method – the nice cooking jerk smell will go all over the place). Place the chicken on a medium-heated skillet with a bit of oil (1 tsp), brown slightly on one side for 5-6 minutes, turn, cover with heat-resistant plate and weight (I used the flat stone, you can use the brick or the pan filled with water). You will be surprised how moist, tender, yet crispy your marinated jerk can come out from just a frying pan in less than 30 minutes. Of course, this no longer will be a smoked version of jerk, but you will still get most of its amazing flavors.
Serve with a big green salad (like watercress chopped salad I posted previously) and rice to offset the heat and, naturally, a tall glass of cold beer (Red Stripe would bring you closer to Jamaican experience).
Are you ready now to make Jamaican Jerk in your kitchen? Let’s put some nice reggae from a wonderful soundtrack of the Chef movie and proceed to the recipe:

Cheers to the Jerk! Indulge yourself in real Jamaican flavors…
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One year ago: Indian Summer Dinner
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SPICY JAMAICAN JERK CHICKEN & MARINADE*
Yields: 6 to 8 portions
*Note: This marinade is also good for grilled pork, fish or sausages.

Ingredients:

2 small to medium-sized chicken (preferably, free range), cut in 4 parts each
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tbsp soya sauce
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
5-6 tbsp apple cider vinegar (optionally, other vinegar)
Juice of 1 lime
Juice of 1 orange (or ¼ cup of orange juice)
1 bunch of (6-10) scallions, coarsely chopped
½ small onion, coarsely chopped
1 thumb knuckle of ginger, skin on
1 tbsp allspice, (preferably, freshly ground)
1 tsp dried thyme or 2 tbsp fresh thyme
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground cinnamon
3 cloves garlic
1 to 5 scotch bonnet peppers (begin with one and add more after for more heat if desired)*
2-3 tbsp of brown sugar, or Maple Syrup (for Canadian twist)
2 tbsp coarse sea salt
*Note: alternatively, replace scotch bonnet peppers with equal amount of habanero peppers, or double of jalapeno peppers, or 1/3 cup of scotch bonnet sauce.
Instructions:
Lightly score the chicken pieces with few not too deep slits. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside.
Mix the rest of the ingredients in a blender or food processor (liquids first, then solids) into a puree. Taste for the salt and add more if desired. Check for spicy, sweet and sour:  the marinade should taste sour-sweet-salt-spicy good and balanced.
Rub the chicken with marinade and refrigerate overnight (to three-five days).
Use one of the cooking methods listed above with instructions: grilled, oven-cooked or pan-fried.
Serve with traditional rice and beans, green salad and beer.

The Muffuletta: Best Travel Sandwich Idea

The Italian week begins today in our city and I’m sure hundreds of ‘sexy backs’ will be lining up soon for that ”screw-the-diet-it’s-once-a-year-only” sfogliatelle testing, La Traviata and Fellini’s film festival. Which gives me an idea that it’s time to reveal my favorite Italian-American travel companion originating from New Orleans – the Muffuletta sandwich and its star ingredient: the olive salad. The ingenious mix arguably created by Salvatore Lupo, the Sicilian deli store keeper, a century ago: crushed olives, minced garlic, chopped giardiniera (a mixture of pickled vegetables), celery, carrots, parsley, capers and spices soaked in the olive oil is exactly what makes this anti-Zen sandwich so irresistible. The classic Muffuletta is made with seeded Italian bread split and layered with this salad, spicy Capicola ham, Genoa salami, Mortadella and layers of thinly sliced Provolone, Mozzarella or Swiss cheeses. This time I made it with baguette, but a softer & spongier bread variety, such as, focaccia (feel free to use gluten-free focaccia) would be a much better choice. Unless you can find or bake a true Sicilian sesame bread as the staple recipe requires.

Maria Lupo Tusa, daughter of the Central Grocery’s founder, tells her story of the sandwich in her 1980 cookbook, ”Marie’s Melting Pot”: ”One of the most interesting aspects of my father’s grocery is his unique creation, the muffuletta sandwich. The muffuletta was created in the early 1900’s when the Farmers’ Market was in the same area as the grocery. Most of the farmers who sold their produce there were Sicilian. Every day they used to come of my father’s grocery for lunch. They would order some salami, some ham, a piece of cheese, a little olive salad, and either long braided Italian bread or round muffuletta bread. In typical Sicilian fashion they ate everything separately. The farmers used to sit on crates or barrels and try to eat while precariously balancing their small trays covered with food on their knees. My father suggested that it would be easier for the farmers if he cut the bread and put everything on it like a sandwich; even if it was not typical Sicilian fashion. He experimented and found that the thicker, braided Italian bread was too hard to bite but the softer round muffuletta was ideal for his sandwich. In very little time, the farmers came to merely ask for a “muffuletta” for their lunch.”
Salvatore Lupo in Central Grocery (top), Muffuletta sandwich now & New Orleans of That Time via Wikimedia Commons
The Muffuletta sandwich has been our travel hubby for a few years now and I can hardly think of any better fit for a road or a long-haul flight. I guess whatever was the lowdownthat pushed the airlines to stop serving meals on domestic flights, it was for good since it made the hungry travelers experiment with the road snacks and seek for some good food alternatives that can actually enhance the positive side of the travel. Now, why Muffuletta sandwich? Why not Cuban or Reuben or Philly? Three reasons: a) because of that garlic-spiked olive salad layer and all kind of savoury Italian deli cold cuts and cheese in it; b) because it travels well (without mayo or mustard in it) – the bread’s taste actually gets better when soaked with the olive spread; c) because it is huge, so it’s great for sharing.
Here is a scientific explanation why: the research shows that our taste buds become almost insensitive during the flight. At 35,000 feet altitude a good portion of our taste buds switch off and most of the neutral food start tasting the same. However, since our tongue has between 2000 and 8000 of these buds, we can still recognize the five taste elements, including: salty, sour, bitter, sweet and umami. And although our perceptions become little different, the tiny tongue receptors will be able to catch the Muffuletta’s goodness. Not to mention the smell: just bring it on a plane, unwrap it and you will see how many pairs of eyes will ignite around you once the coach class fills up with the bouquet of an Italian market. And how timely it will feel when surviving a storm, or a delayed flight, or an exhausting road trip! For a split second, you might actually agree that it might be the best sandwich in America…
If possible, make the olive salad few days in advance to let the flavours marry in the fridge. Chop fresh celery, carrots and olives coarsely. Mix them with drained and coarsely chopped marinated (giardiniera) ingredients. Add garlic and olive oil and mix well. Pack into a clean (preferably sterilized) jar and let the salad sit in the fridge until you are ready to make a sandwich. My tip: add a spoon of the fish sauce or minced anchovies to have that BRINY state jumpstart in your olive salad (you will taste the difference). Tip No. 2: if using baguette or other crusted bread, cut out a slight niche for a salad as seen in the image. Spread some olive oil on both halves of the bread, then layer one half with the olive salad, the cold cuts and the cheese. Here is a good 1-minute video instruction from chef Paul in New Orleans. 
The sandwich gets better the longer it sits, so wrap it in a wax or butcher paper that will keep moisture inside and allow the olive salad to marinate the bread in the sandwich for at least few hours in the fridge.
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THE MUFFULETTA OLIVE SALAD
Ingredients:
2 cups pimento stuffed green olives, well drained and crushed
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, well drained and crushed
1 cup jar pickled cauliflower/or mix w/banana peppers, drained and coarsely chopped
1 cup jar pickled pepperoncini, drained and left whole
1/2 cup cocktail onions, drained and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup jar pickled capers, drained
1 cup finely chopped carrots
1 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 head fresh garlic peeled and minced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fish sauce or 2 minced anchovies (optional)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Instructions:
Combine all ingredients in a large and mix well. Place in a large jar and store tightly covered in refrigerator. Allow to marinate for at least 24 hours before using.
Tip: apart from Muffuletta sandwich, I successfully use this olive salad as antipasti or side dish by adding some freshly chopped carrots, celery and a splash of olive oil.
THE MUFFULETTA SANDWICH
Ingredients:
1 round loaf Italian bread or Focaccia
1/4 pound Mortadella, thinly sliced
1/4 pound spicy Capicollo, thinly sliced
1/4 pound hard Genoa salami, thinly sliced
1/4 pound Mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
1/4 pound Provolone cheese, thinly sliced
1 cup olive salad with oil
Instructions:
Split a loaf of Italian bread horizontally. Spread each half with equal parts of olive salad and oil. Place cold cuts and cheeses evenly on bottom half and cover with top half of bread. Cut in quarters. Enjoy!
Adapted from the combination of my old notes on authentic Muffuletta from New Orleans and Saveur.com

Tkemali Sour Plum BBQ Sauce

Another great recipe from the Republic of Georgia. This sauce has an unforgettable kick and identity. Plum sauce is commonly associated with a glutinous yellow sweet and sour condiment used with Chinese deep-fried dishes. Georgian Tkemali sour plum sauce has nothing to do with it (except the plum ingredient). It has totally different pungent, sour-tangy, spicy and herbal taste and goes with much bigger array of dishes, especially grilled or broiled.

Just like Argentinean Chimichuri, it’s perfect with grilled beef, pork or lamb, but is also very good with grilled or fried chicken, or fish. For some reason, I keep having this parallel of Georgian and Argentinean cuisines in my mind exactly after visiting and trying the Georgian grill (Mcvadi) + Tkemali and Argentinean grill (Parilla) + Chimichuri. Both sauces are sour and full of garden freshness; both go well with all kind of grilled meat and are delicious with vegetables; both can be also used as a marinade. “So do tomato or pepper-based sauces”, I can hear you saying. Yes, but you will not have that “garden in your mouth”, and that is the power of this sauce.
Genuine Tkemali is made of small yellow-green plums called tkemale in Georgia. In season, for a short period of the time, we have a similar variety of yellow plums in stores here at the end of summer. Red sour plums (under ripen), can serve as a good substitute to make this sauce and right now we have them as an import from Chile, Peru and California. You will need about 9-10 plums (about 23 oz or 650g) to make a decent amount of this sauce, which you can keep in the fridge for a few weeks after in clean sterilized jars. Add a splash of an apple cider vinegar while cooking it if you need to keep the sauce for a longer time.
Making it takes not more than 30 minutes in total. I tried to keep the recipe as authentic as I could (considering that there are hundreds of varieties of this sauce) to attain that “garden” taste effect and avoid adding any vinegar (stay away GERD!). Put less cayenne if you want to temper the heat. The mix of freshly ground coriander, fennel seed, cayenne and crushed garlic add a distinct smoky dimension when incorporated into the plum paste.
As one Russian chef said in the heydays of cold war and Soviet bonanza: “Georgians can eat sauce on sauce”. Sauces are so important in Georgian cuisine, nothing is eaten without them. Known to have lots of aromatic herbs and spices in most of their variations, each and every sauce is very different and designed to be taken with a specific dish. Tkemali sauce is very versatile though. And with the new trends for salty-sweet-sour and/or use of fruits in place of veggies, you can literally take it with anything, even the ice cream. I find it tastes especially good with lamb and chicken, others love it with broiled fish, burgers or grilled veggies. 
 Lace your dish with or dip it in, this sauce successfully contends with the best BBQ sauces I know.
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TKEMALI SOUR PLUM SAUCE
Yields: 6 to 10 servings
Ingredients:
9-12 (650-800 g or 23-25 oz) sour under ripe plums pitted and sliced
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons coriander seed, grounded
1 teaspoon fennel seed, grounded
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, grounded
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
black pepper to taste
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
1 tablespoon fresh mint, minced
1/2 cup fresh coriander, minced
Instructions:
Bring water to boil, add plums, simmer for 10 minutes, remove from heat. Transfer to the blender, add garlic, salt and give it a few runs to blend the mixture to paste. Transfer blended mix back to the saucepan. Add grounded spices: coriander, fennel seed, cayenne and black pepper to taste. Bring to boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add minced fresh mint and coriander. Mix and boil for 1 minute. Cool to room temperature and transfer to clean sterilized jars. Keep refrigerated. Great with lamb, chicken, fish, beef, pork or grilled veggies.
TIP: Dry fry the coriander and fennel before grinding to powder in a pestle & mortar to enhance the flavor of the spices in the sauce.