Kakhetian food has a reputation for being simple to prepare, but each ingredient must be used with precision. Chikhirtma is no different.
The soup became a key part of the Georgian diet in the 19th century, during the reign of King Erekle, when turkeys were first domesticated in Europe. Over time, however, chicken and lamb have replaced turkey as the key ingredient in this hearty soup.
In Kakheti, where the winters are cold and snowy, chikhirtma has long been seen as a food to be enjoyed by the fireplace, although it can now be found on virtually every restaurant menu in the country.
No matter where in the country you are, the main ingredient of chikhirtma is always an egg-based broth blended with vinegar and flour. Some people garnish the soup only with coriander, while others add dill and mint. In one old recipe book published in 1885, tarragon was also added to chikhirtma.
Chicken, as desired, hen;
2 tbsp wine vinegar;
1-2 tbsp bread flour;
1 bunch coriander;
5-6 drops saffron infusion;
Salt, cinnamon, black pepper to taste.
Set a well-cleaned chicken to boil. When it has reached a boil, skim the foam off and pour out the first water.
Once it has boiled, put the chicken in a separate bowl and salt it.
Strain the fat from the broth, pour it into a pot, and sauté a minced onion in it.
Dissolve the bread flour in a cup of the chicken broth and wine vinegar, pouring it over the sautéed onion and gradually adding 7-8 cups of the chicken broth.
Once it boils, put the coriander bunch into it.
After it boils for 30 minutes, take the coriander back out and add the salt, cinnamon, black pepper, and 5-6 drops of saffron infusion to the soup, boiling it for another 5-10 minutes.
Slowly add well-beaten eggs mixed with vinegar to the cooled soup, making sure to stir it constantly. Place the cut pieces of boiled chicken into the prepared soup.
When seasoning chikhirtma it is important to use spices and herbs moderately, so that neither the rich taste of the broth nor the taste of the seasoning overpowers the other. The herbs must not be overboiled.
If the mint is dried then it should be added to the pot sooner than the coriander. It is also possible to add the coriander and the vinegar into the soup individually, right before bringing it to the table.
According to Kakhetians, the most important thing when boiling the broth is the chicken wings, since there is a lot of cartilage and connective tissue in them, with the bones secreting a lot of gelatin to thicken the broth.
There is one more small thing to keep in mind: if you want the broth to be flavorful, you should add salt right from the very beginning.