Almost Turkish Recipes

Priest's Beef Stew (Papaz Yahnisi)

Since I haven't posted a new recipe in a while, I wanted to break the silence with a heavily delicious or deliciously heavy one: priest's beef stew or ragout. This succulent ragout recipe comes from the Aegean part of Turkey, and judging by the name, priest--not "yahni" since it is of Persian origin for meat and onion dishes--the dish must be originally Greek. Another clue about its Greek roots is the use of cinnamon. Although it is an indispensable spice in Turkish cooking, cinnamon is used for the most part in desserts, not in savory dishes and most definitely not in stews. But here we go, this stew asks for cinnamon and allspice, and in the end the beef braised for hours with these spices is just fantastic. If you are a meat eater, you will want to write this recipe down.    

serves 4-6, depending on the appetite 
2 lb stew beef
1 lb pearl onions, peeled (you can use frozen ones, but I really think they don't taste the same)
3 tbsp butter
1 head of garlic,8-10 cloves, don't panic it's good
3 tbsp red wine vinegar or 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 can of diced tomatoes or 3 tomatoes, grated
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice, ground
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp or more salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 c flour 
2 c hot water
parsley, finely chopped to garnish

-Place stew beef on a flat surface (a big plate or a tray), sprinkle flour on top, and make sure each piece is coated.
-Melt the butter in a stew pot, add stew beef, and on medium heat saute until they are all browned and crispy outside: ~6-7 minutes.
-Add pearl onions and garlic and stir for  another 6-7 minutes. At this point flour on the beef might stick to the bottom of the pot, but that's fine. Keep stirring; it'll go away once you add tomatoes and water.
-Add diced or grated tomatoes (I always put diced tomatoes in a food processor or a hand blender and pulse 2-3 seconds to have a smoother texture), spices, salt, and boiling water.
-Once it bubbles, turn the heat down to low, cover ans simmer for at least 2 hours, and get a beer &  go outside because the delicious smell will drive you crazy. 
-Serve with rice and/or crusty bread.

I started making papaz yahnisi based on a recipe that I read from a Turkish cookbook back in the day when I didn't have a blog and wasn't careful about my recipe sources. and now I cannot remember the name of the writer or the book. If I remember, I'll definitely cite it. 


  1. This looks like a Greek stifado. In Greece we always cook this with cinnamon and all-spice berries but also bay leaves.
    It looks great.

  2. Hi Burcu! Are you back? I've missed your recipes. I make this one myself and think it's great. Love your photos.

  3. @Magda: Thank you! Now I know what it's called in Greek. I'm always curious about what these double-citizenship recipes are called in diferent languages. What does stifado mean?

    @seasonal cook: Thank you! I missed posting too. I've been back for quite some time but busy teaching and etc.

  4. Anonymous12:14 PM

    interesting about the cinnamon not used in savory Turkish recipes...almost all Levantine( Syria,Lebanon,Palestine and Jordan) savory dishes include cinnmamon and/or allspice ..enjoying ur blog..miriam

  5. Merhaba Burcu,

    Great to see your posts again, hosgeldin : ) Loved your photos and this wonderful recipe, haven't made Yahni for a while, look forward to your version : )

  6. Stifado is the name of a traditional Greek dish with beef, rabbit or hare, cooked slowly in a tomato sauce with lots of small onions and spices. The word stifado doesn't mean anything in particular, it is derived from an ancient Greek word for smoke/steam.

  7. Made this tonight for dinner, Burcu, and it was delicious. I added 1/2 tsp. cumin to the spice mixture and used tomato paste (no heartburn for me). Wish I had some pillowy pide to go with, but it was lovely on its own. Thanks for the recipe!

  8. Anonymous7:09 AM

    Looks yummy, gonna try that now.

  9. I remember having this as a kid but as years passed this dish was forgotten. but now i have got the recipe i will be cooking it!