The elusive truth about hashlam
Almost from the moment of birth, every person is surrounded by rules, starting from the rule of cutting the umbilical cord and feeding breast milk strictly by the hour, and ending with the rules for applying for a pension. And all my life, why not touch – the rules, the rules, the rules. How to drive a car, how to love a woman, how to draw up a quarterly report to the tax office – follow the rules!
And, you know, what will I tell you? Knowing the rules is very helpful. And in most cases, it is better to comply with them. Strict adherence to the rules leads to easily predictable results, you get exactly what you counted on and others look at you with cool approval. But when you learn very well how to do it, then it’s not a sin … sometimes you can take the rules and break them. Moreover, I will say that if you violate the rules masterfully, then it causes admiration among others, and the violator himself experiences an incomparable thrill.
In cooking, there are also unshakable rules. Here, for example, one of them: if you want to cook the broth – put the meat in cold water, and if you want to cook the meat – wrap it in muslin, tie it with a twine and put it in boiling water.
We will return to non-compliance with the rules, but for now let’s talk about this. There are dishes that are prepared by someone at all. Sometimes, reading recipes or even just looking at the result, it is impossible to imagine that we are talking about the same thing. Not only will the products on the lists jump here and there, the technologies also differ fundamentally, but only the name remains common.
Why it happens? Maybe this happens with dishes, relative to which the rules have not yet been formed? Or, on the contrary, is the dish so ancient that no one even remembers why it was, in fact, started?
And let’s try to unravel a very confusing tangle called hashlama?
This ball – oh, how difficult, I tell you! I think that it’s not in vain that even old man Pokhlebkin V.V. didn’t mention a word about this topic in his book “Dishes of Our Peoples”, apparently not daring to refer it to the cuisine of any of the Caucasian republics.
I must say that when distributing folk dishes by national apartments, the founder of our modern culinary literature completely ignored the fact that culinary geography does not end at the borders of the Soviet Union, that in addition to the fifteen republics there are other countries and peoples with their culinary traditions and culinary history and that some peoples living outside the former USSR are related to those living inside it! Therefore, not surprised at some absurdities in its systematization of folk culinary, I put his book back on the bookshelf with amazement: how is it not haslam? Everyone cooks it, loves it, eats it with pleasure, but there are no book recipes?
Other cookbooks gave me only a mention of this dish, not counting a couple of delusional recipes clearly scribbled from the Internet, but most books … were just silent, as if there was no such dish at all. Did they all conspire with Pokhlebkin or did Pokhlebkin conspire with them?
And then – oh, a miracle! – An old, pretty tattered book of fifty years ago by a Georgian doctor T.P. Sulakvelidze presented me with two recipes for hashlama. According to one version of the author, this is a soup from the “young calf”, prepared very simply, and seasoned with garlic and parsley. However, despite the classification of “soup”, this recipe should produce quite a bit. According to another version, this is a meat dish of young lamb. Just boiled lamb and that’s it! The salt is already on the table.
Well, this result suited me completely, because my ideas coincided with the opinion of recognized authority, even in general terms, and that in essence hashlama is boiled kebab – a kind of culinary oxymoron that is resorted to when there are no conditions for barbecue, and the conditions for cooking meat is available.
But, nevertheless, the khashlama that I ate with other people and cooked myself was somewhat different from the recipes of TP Sulakvelidze. But is there anything surprising in that? Not! Two neighbors cook in different ways, and representatives of different nations are simply obliged to cook with some regional and national differences!
Well, so listen to my presentation of the Azerbaijani version of this dish.
There are only a few rules, or rather ways of violating these same rules.
Firstly, meat for hashlama goes indiscriminately by grades. Forget “it’s for barbecue, and mincemeat from this” – you can put at least the whole ram in hashlama.
Secondly, meat in khashlama is chopped with medium-sized chunks, and this is despite the fact that the main goal of khashlama is to get tasty boiled meat.
And in the third, fourth and fifth, the meat is laid where in cold, and where in boiling water, the pan is preferred “wrong” – wide and shallow, and even the cooking method is chosen incorrect – not as for cooking meat – boiling, but as for good broth – very slow languor!
And I must tell you, the khashlama broth turns out, really, just super!