Almost Turkish Recipes

Slow Cooked Beef Stew (Etli Güveç)

Güveç (Gue-vech) is a Turkish term that defines both slow cooked stews and the clay pot, glazed or unglazed, that they are cooked in, just like tagine. The stew could be vegetarian or with meat: chicken, beef, lamb, or goat. The vegetables used in this dish vary depending on the season it's made.

Traditionally the dish is prepared by layering the ingredients in an order that they will cook; meat at the bottom and tomatoes on top, and no water is added because the clay pot and its lid are sealed with dough so the delicious steam doesn't escape. And the güveç is cooked slowly for 1,5 - 2 hours in the wood fired clay oven that most houses had in their backyards in the past. After crackıng the dough around the lid, the stew would be served over rice with a nice loaf of bread and yogurt on the side. It's really hard to describe the deliciousness of meat and/or veggies cooked slowly in their own juices in a clay pot.   

As you can imagine, nowadays not many people have clay ovens in their backyards. Some people still keep the tradition by sending their güveç to either neighborhood bakeries or, in rare instances, to few existing güveç bakeries that specialize in baking güveç. However, most people who still fancy the dish and the clay pot, like my mom, cook it at home on regular stoves (most kitchens in Turkey feature small size ovens that would not accommodate the height of a clay pot). My mom prepares the dish in her half a century old clay pot which is almost black now rather than clay color due to the usage and love it got over the years. She still makes a small amount of dough to seal the lid to the pot and uses a heat diffuser that distributes the heat evenly so the pot doesn't crack.

I gave up on clay pots after I broke two in suitcases trying to bring them here to the States. So the following recipe is an authentic "almost" Turkish one, since I opt for a cast-iron pot instead.

It is completely up to you how much of what you will use in this dish. The tricky part is you cannot make a small batch because even if you add one of each vegetable they add up. So make the dish, get some bread and a good red wine and invite friends over. I usually make a very meaty stew, since my younger clientele is still quite picky about veggies, so they flavor their buttery rice with only meat and juice from the stew.

1 lb stew beef or lamb (You can use chicken as well, but I rather have it vegetarian than with chicken)
1 medium to big size onion, diced
7-8 cloves of garlic, peeled
a handful of green beans, or less, trimmed and cut into ~2 inch pieces
1 eggplant, peeled in stripes or not and cut in cubes
1 zucchini or summer squash, or both, cut in cubes (in Turkey they peel zucchinis, I don't.)
1 potato, peeled and cubed
3-4 peppers, shishito, sweet Italian, anaheim-if you like spicy, chopped (but never ever use American bell peppers, please!)
3-4 medium tomatoes, chopped or grated. You can use grape or cherry tomatoes as well, just halve them
1/2 cup water (because cast iron and I am not making dough to seal it)
1/4 - 1/3 cup olive oil
salt
1 tbsp tomato or pepper paste, optional (some add tomato or pepper paste for the color)
Parchment paper

-Take a biggish cast iron pot. Place meat at the bottom, and layer up the rest in this order: onion, green beans, couple of garlic cloves, eggplant, more garlic cloves, zucchini, garlic cloves, potatoes, peppers, and finally tomatoes.
-Mix salt and water and add to the pot. If you want to use tomato paste. Mix it in the water at this stage.
-Pour the olive oil evenly on top.
-Cover the top of the veggies with parchment paper tightly. We're cheating and using it in lieu of dough. Place a heavy plate on top; small enough to go in the pot but wide enough to cover as much of the surface as possible.
-Finally place the lid.
-Bring the stew first to a boil and then cook on low for 1,5 hours. Lamb cooks faster than beef. So cook for 1 hour for lamb and 1,5-2 for beef.

  



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