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Lamb Soup: Valensbrae Cooks Look to Eastern Europe & Asia for Ideas

Let’s talk soup! In July? Sure, why not!

If this is a recipe that suits your fancy – print it out for that cold wintery day when soup served with hot bread hits the spot!

Soup. We all eat it, we all make it, but do we really know what it is?

According to The Culinary Cook, there are 3 different types of soup: clear, thick and puree. It’s important to know the soup type, when working from scratch, so you know which meat and veggies pair best with the tastiest broth and spices.

Clear soups include the broths and consommés and where Vietnamese Pho fits in nicely. As you would expect thick soups require a thickening agent – think roux, or starch from rice or potatoes. A great example would be cream of potato soup! The final soup type – purée is where cooks slot in bisques, chowders and cold soups.

Back to lamb. Lamb stew, we knew, but lamb soup?

The Georgians (Eastern Europe/Asia) make a lamb and rice soup that is known as Kharcho.

Bordered by the Black Sea to the west, Russia to the north, Turkey and Armenia to the south, and Azerbaijan to the southeast, Georgia has a rich culinary tradition influenced heavily by the merchants and travelers along the Silk Road Trade.

What is distinct for Georgian cuisine is the unequivocal use of tklapi, a dried sour plum roll (like fruit leather) usually available at ethnic cooking shops. Modern cooks, or cooks outside of Georgian have substituted tamarind paste*, often available at Indian grocers.

What we weren’t able to determine however is the best proportions in using tamarind paste. So, test wisely, until you get the flavour you are looking for. Generally speaking tamarind adds a lemon or lime taste to what you are cooking.

Kharcho (Harcho) is a traditional Georgian soup that contains lamb, rice, tklapi and chopped walnuts. The soup is usually served with finely chopped fresh coriander or dill. But there are many variations of Kharcho – from family to family and region to region.

This recipe comes to us from The Spruce Eats, which has a number of other great recipes.


lamb soup - Valensbrae

Georgian Lamb and Rice Soup (Kharcho)

Serve with warm bread/buns and strong ale


  • 1 1/2 lbs lamb shoulder (trimmed of fat and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes)
  • 1/4C all-purpose flour
  • 1/4C butter
  • 1 large onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 3 cloves garlic (crushed)
  • 8 C water or stock
  • 1 salt
  • 8 ounces chopped sour plum roll (tklapi)*
  • 1/2C rice (washed and drained)
  • 1/2C chopped walnuts
  • 1/4C coriander/dill (chopped, for garnish)


Dredge the lamb cubes in the flour. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the butter and brown the lamb cubes on all sides.

Add the chopped onion, tomato paste, and garlic, and sauté 2 minutes, adding more butter, if necessary.

Add the water or stock and 1 teaspoon optional salt. Bring to a boil, skimming any foam that rises to the surface, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 1 1/2 hours.

Add plum roll, walnuts and rinsed and drained rice. If substituting tamarind paste for tklapi, add gradually for the desired taste.

Return to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. If soup becomes too thick, add more stock or water, otherwise, you may end up with stew!

Serve in heated bowls and garnish with chopped coriander or dill.