Galnesh, Spirit of the Mountains

As I mentioned in my previous post my mother side of the family comes from Chechnya, a tiny nation in the North Caucasus Mountains. The geographical nature of the area as well as two hundred years of on and off wars and independence attempts from Russia left their mark on the Chechen cuisine. The food in Chechnya is very simple and basic. The available vegetables are no more than potatoes, garlic, onion, cabbage and few wild greens as the Caucasus with its sharp slopes and cold weather didn't offer a suitable environment for farming. During war time especially winter months people had to survive on very little but flour, dairy and preserved meats. Chechen in the diaspora although left Chechnya over a century ago managed to preserve some of their cuisine till this day.

My grandparents house wasn't strictly Chechen since my Grandmother is Kurdish. The language spoken in the house was Arabic and the vast majority of the food was Syrian. Nevertheless, few Chechen dishes were always on the menu. One of the most unusual dishes my granddad (and occasionally my mum) enjoyed for breakfast was Churychay. This was a bowl of hot tea and milk but instead of sugar salt and pepper and a piece of butter is added. You then dip your bread to soak the tea. When you are full you simply drink what is left! You can imagine my horror when I first tasted this stuff at eight years of age. This dish is the ultimate evidence that food is an acquired taste.

Kurzanesh was a crowd-pleaser in my grandparents house. It is minced lamb filled dumplings steamed or boiled depending how many hungry mouths my grandma had to feed. These then eaten alone or with garlic and yogurt sauce.

My favorite Chechen dish (this might be my favourite dish ever, or very close up there) is Chechenya's national dish Galnesh (Galvash, Djir-Galnish and Zhizhig-Galvash are other names of this dish). A simple pasta like dough cooked in meat broth and eaten with very strong Garlic sauce. This simple, filling and hearty dish reflects more than any other the historical isolation and resilience of the Chechen nation.

Here is my recipe:

Plain Flour 2 cups
One Egg
Lamb cubes 500g (or even better, lamb shanks)
Garlic 5-6 cloves
Water 1 cup

Meat in Chechen cooking is always boiled (All Chechen food is cooked by boiling on open stove . There is hardly any fried or roasted dishes). Start with adding a liter or so of water to cover your meat. Bring to the boil making sure you regularly skim the surface to get a clear tasty stock. Season with salt and pepper. Once boiled reduce the heat and simmer for 60 - 90 minutes till the meat is nice and tender. Once cooked remove the meat aside. Keep a bowl of the meat stock for the garlic sauce. The rest of the stock will be used to cook the Galnesh.

Once the meat is simmering, start making your dough. Mix the flour, egg, one tea spoon of salt and 3/4 cup of water and start mixing. Add more water if the dough is too hard, the final dough need to be Pasta-like hard dough. Work the dough for few minutes, cover with a damp cloth and let rest for 30 minutes.

When the dough is rested, cut into pieces and flatten with your hand to 5 mm thick. Cut into small squares. On a well floured wooden cutting board, using your fingers, press and roll the dough squares to form the Galnesh fingers. Arrange on a tray till the meat is cooked and you are ready to cook them. The video below will show you the way.

In a large pot add boiling water to the rest of the meat stock and bring to the boil. Drop the Galnesh fingers and cook for 20 - 25 minutes. This is similar to cooking pasta. The Galnesh need to be slightly al dente.

Crush the garlic cloves with salt in a pestle and mortar. Add the garlic to the meat stock preserved to make your dipping sauce. This need to be salty and very very garlicky.

Arrange your Galnesh around the sauce bowl and the meat pieces on top. With your fork take some meat and a piece of Galnesh, dip in the garlic sauce and enjoy.


Miriam/The Winter Guest said...

I found your blog via Sarah, from Food Bridge. I was browsing through it and this recipe really caught my eye, I love the way the galnesh fingers are made! I recently started to make my own pasta, I think I will definitely try this one. You do have a very interesting blog!

Kano said...

Welcome to my blog and thanks for the nice words.
Please do try it. It is very simple dish but truly delicious.

Unknown said...

Hey, today I felt like eating Galnesh, and to be honest I didnt think of searching for it in your blog, so I thought I'll google it, but google was smarter than me, and gave me this link. It was the third option.
SO I was really proud of you, and you can be sure that when I decide to cook it, I will get back here and do it the way you said, bas iza ma tel3et taybe ma dakhalni....kisses to all three of you - YARA

Kano said...

Hi Yur

Eza me tel3et taybeh bekoon alghalat min Riman!

Anonymous said...

eh tel3et taybe wu nos, kanet kaman 3anna rfi2ti wu khalasna al senye kella wu akalna asabi3na ba3da, thanks 4 the help.
wanted to take a picture of it before and after.....but we were too busy eating.

yallah take care - as soon as i try another receipe I'll let you know

Kano said...

A7la Em Yehya!

Anonymous said...

i have eaten this many times in friends homes in Ingushetia and i never made it until i saw your blog. Thank you it is very authentic and tasty but strong garlic taste is aquired love not for weak.

Kano said...


I am really glad to hear that. I will go one day when I have a chance to visit my ancestral Chechnya and try it there.

Anonymous said...

I love your site -- but its so frustrating that the live feed keeps claiming that I am visiting from Israel -- I am visiting from occupied east jerusalem -- i.e. occupied palestine!

Kano said...

Unfortunately I can't change that.

Welcome to my blog!

Unknown said...

yes... it is my favorite Chechen dish .... a cant do without periodically

Kano said...

@ahmed arslan

It is my absolute favourite dish too.

Adriane said...

Yum! I cannot wait to cook this delicious dish for my sons and myself. My mouth waters as I think of it. Thank you for the recipe.

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