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
- Prep time 15 minutes
- Cook time 4 hours 30 minutes
- Serves 6
boneless beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
large onion, coarsely chopped
garlic cloves (or to taste), coarsely chopped
small carrot, peeled and grated
large tomatoes, cut into eighths
or 6 medium green anaheim chiles, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
large eggplant, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
plus 3 tablespoons sweet or hot Turkish pepper paste or tomato paste, or a combination
fine sea salt
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.