Iakhni is a specialty of the Ajara region—people from other parts of Georgia may not have heard of it. Its deep orange color comes from dried marigold, which was historically passed off as the much more expensive saffron and has since become one of the defining features of Georgian cuisine. A dish of the same name appears in various forms across South Asia and the Middle East. It’s likely this dish was brought to Georgia by the Ottomans.
In Ajara this dish is typically made with fatty brisket that is boiled until tender, but short ribs are easier to find in the US and come out beautifully when braised (cooked long and gently in nearly enough liquid to cover them).
4 lbs. beef short ribs
Refined sunflower oil (or canola or grapeseed oil) for searing
2 yellow onions, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. ground marigold (“Georgian saffron”)
1/2 Tbsp. hmeli suneli spice blend
2 tsp. ground Georgian blue fenugreek (utskho suneli), or 1 tsp. ground fenugreek
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup walnuts, ground in a food processor
Approximately 4 cups beef or other meat stock (or water) for braising
- In a heavy-bottomed pan with a lid, sear short ribs in oil until well-browned on two sides.
- Add onions, salt, pepper, and other spices. Mix well and cook another 5 minutes until onions are tender.
- Add garlic, ground walnuts, and enough stock or water to nearly cover the meat. Bring nearly to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer over very low heat for 2-3 hours, turning the meat occasionally, until the meat is very tender and easily falls off the bone. (If your pan is oven-safe, you can also let the meat braise in a 300 F oven for a few hours. A Dutch oven is ideal for this.)
- Remove the meat from the bones completely before serving with a ladleful of sauce alongside khachapuri, bread, or corn cakes.