Make Ahead

Turkish Slow-Cooked Beef and Vegetable Stew (Güveç)

October 10, 2017
6 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 4 hours 30 minutes
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

Güveç are stews of meat, chicken, or vegetables baked in a clay dish or pot (also called a güveç). In much of eastern Turkey cooks carry their güveç to the neighborhood bread bakery to cook in the stone oven. This stew is inspired by one I ate on a rainy lunchtime at a cafe in Selim, a tiny farm town about 45 minutes away from Kars.

This is a dish to make when you have a few hours at home but don't want to spend them in the kitchen. It's truly hands-off—place a few ingredients in the pot and put it in the oven, uncovered, for several hours. As the liquid reduces and the meat gets tender, the various elements meld into a complex whole. Toward the end of cooking, as the sauce evaporates, the meat and vegetables begin to brown, adding another layer of flavor. The stew cooks at 425°F; the high heat duplicates that of eastern Turkey's wood-fired stone ovens.

Like any stew, this tastes better when made ahead. Serve with good sturdy bread to mop up the juices.

Excerpted from Istanbul & Beyond by Robyn Eckhardt (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Copyright © 2017. —Food52

Test Kitchen Notes

It’s safe to say that slow cookers and instant pots are having a moment. From the abundance of cookbooks to the mind-boggling array of models on the market, the beloved appliances are quickly becoming household staples.

But using special equipment to cook up hearty stews and fall-off-the-bone braises with little to no supervision is hardly new. In Turkey, the OG slow cooker was the a clay dish or pot called a güveç, says food writer Robyn Eckhardt in her first book, Istanbul and Beyond: Exploring the Diverse Cuisines of Turkey.

“In much of eastern Turkey cooks carry their güveç to the neighborhood bread bakery to cook in the wood-fired stone oven,” she says. “It's truly hands-off—place a few ingredients in the pot and put it in the oven, uncovered, for several hours.”

The extreme oven heat reduces the liquid and tenderizes the meat over several hours. Toward the end of the cook time, the sauce evaporates, revealing browned meat and vegetables. The resulting stew (also called güveç) is a dish with complex, layered flavors.

Eckhardt translates the Turkish recipe for homes without access to bakery ovens by cooking the stew at 425° F. “This is a dish to make when you have a few hours at home but don't want to spend them in the kitchen,” she writes.

First, combine and bring the ingredients to a boil over high heat, either in a Dutch oven or baking dish. If you don't have a vessel you're comfortable with heating over a range, simply boil in a separate pot, then pour in an oven-safe baking dish. After the mixture comes to a boil, place the dish, uncovered, into your oven. After about 3 and 1/ 2 hours, the liquid should reduce by half or two-thirds, allowing the meat and vegetables to brown in the last 30 minutes. “This tastes better when made ahead,” Eckhardt says. Let the soup cool in the dish before refrigerating or freezing, then reheat on the stovetop to serve. —Katie Macdonald

What You'll Need
  • 2 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves (or to taste), coarsely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and grated
  • 3 large tomatoes, cut into eighths
  • 5 or 6 medium green anaheim chiles, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large eggplant, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 7 cups water
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sweet or hot Turkish pepper paste or tomato paste, or a combination
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven (or in the lower third, if the size of your pot requires it) and heat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Spread the meat over the bottom of a large Dutch oven or other heavy ovenproof pot. Spread the onion, garlic, and carrot over the meat, then add the rest of the vegetables.
  3. Combine the water, pepper and or tomato pastes, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl, stirring to dissolve the paste. Pour over the stew ingredients. Place the pot over high heat and bring the liquid to a boil; do not stir. Transfer the pot to the oven and cook the stew, uncovered, until the liquid reduces by one-half to two-thirds and the meat is tender, about 3 1/2 hours; stir once after about 1 1/2 hours. If after the 3 1/2 hours all of the ingredients are still submerged in liquid, raise the heat to 450°F and cook until some of the ingredients are exposed and beginning to brown, 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven, cover, and allow to rest for 30 minutes before serving hot, or let the stew cool in the pot before refrigerating or freezing.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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    Alan Divack
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    Brian Hinkle

11 Reviews

Alan D. April 21, 2023
So unlikely -- cooking uncovered at very high heat for several hours -- but such wonderful, succulent results
Nancy January 12, 2022
This reminds me of Hungarian ghivetch, one of similar stews named for the pot it was cooked in, from Balkan, Turkish and mittel-Europa cuisines.
rxsegarden January 6, 2021
Can I use chunks of lamb leg instead of beef? Will it cook differently?
teotchka November 8, 2020
Loved this!! Meat is amazingly tender and flavourful. Added some cabbage I wanted to get rid of and some potatoes when it was 30 mins away from being done. The 7 cups of water were all absorbed, which I was skeptical about initially.
Hollis R. September 14, 2020
I’ll use 1/4 c. tomato paste + 2-3 T. harissa, since I have no idea what Turkish pepper paste consists of. What about adding smoked paprika and za’atar, too?
Ellen E. July 24, 2020
I absolutely loved this stew. It was so easy and pretty healthy, too. (I never thought an oil-free recipe could taste this good. Ha!)

I couldn’t fit all that liquid in my cast iron, so I kept adding more tomato-paste-water as it cooked. Definitely needed all 7 cups though — don’t underestimate!

I’ll be making this again and again. Such a flavorful, comforting dish. One of my new favorites.
Tracy May 30, 2018
If making this in the slow cooker, how much water should be used? I know it would be a lot less than 7 cups. Any suggestions?
Hollis R. September 14, 2020
I doubt that a slow cooker could reach the necessary temperature, reduce the liquid, or brown the stew. It needs to cook, uncovered, at 425°F, for several hours. Slow cookers can’t do a dish like this.
NotKate December 17, 2017
Made it on a cold New England afternoon and I gotta say this might one of my new favorites - very tender, very hearty, and had a good kick because I added a tablespoon or two of harissa to the tomato paste (didn't have any hot turkish pepper pastes). The water and time proportions worked perfectly for my oven at 425 for 3 hours. Do not over stir this recipe! I think they key was getting some browning on the exposed vegetables and meat. 10/10 would make again.
Napabrown November 2, 2017
Regarding this line in the recipe: "1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sweet or hot Turkish pepper paste or tomato paste, or a combination". Is there an ingredient missing after the word "cup" or does this mean a bit (3 tbs) more than 1/4 cup of the pepper paste?
Brian H. October 16, 2017
Be careful about letting this cook too long - my oven may run hot, but at 3.5 hours @ 425 degrees every bit of liquid in the pot had completely evaporated. The meat and veg were tender, a bit dry and much much much smaller than before.