My parents are visiting from Istanbul and they brought me a wonderful guvec pot, the traditional earthenware pot, that is used for cooking chicken, meat or vegetable based dishes. This is slow cooking at its best; the flavors of the seasonal produce and choice of meat mingle and simmer over 2 hours and the earthenware guvec pot brings out its distinctive flavor. At the end of the cooking you get a delicious, melt-in- the mouth, tender stew of vegetables and meat, so worth the wait.
A little history for guvec, excerpted from “The Oxford Companion to Food” by Alan Davidson, kindly shared by My Traveling Joys; “Gyuvech is the Bulgarian name for a kind of earthenware casserole or the dish cooked in it. The name comes from the Turkish word güveç, which has the same meaning. The casserole is fairly shallow with a large surface area allowing for maximum evaporation. It comes round or oval. These vessels are found all over the Balkans are used for cooking almost anything of a savory nature, including fish as well as meat, poultry, and game dishes.” In Rural Anatolia, the guvec pots can be sealed and buried in the ashes of the fire to cook slowly overnight. It is also common for the locals in Anatolia to take their guvec pot to be baked at the bakery.
This guvec is a wonderful way to use up any seasonal vegetable you have and the meat of your choice if you like. I used runner beans, eggplant, potatoes, zucchini, onions and peppers, they worked really well. When the tomatoes are in season, you can replace the chopped canned tomatoes with the fresh ones; the flavors will be even more amazing. When cooking in the clay pot, bear in mind to layer the vegetables that need longer cooking period towards the bottom of the pot. Once cooked, turn the heat off and let the Guvec rest in the earthenware pot for 30 minutes. The flavors blend and settle deliciously and the earthenware pot will keep warm for a long time.
You may also use the cooked potatoes in this guvec pot to make this delicious Patatesli, bulgur kofte; potato and bulgur patties We love dipping these rolls into the delicious juices of the guvec. I love the all in one pot casseroles and “tencere yemekleri” in Turkish cuisine; they are wholesome, easy and healthy meals and great for entertaining and many options included at my Ozlem’s Turkish Table cookery book, signed copies available to order at this link.
I hope you enjoy this delicious, tender and healthy guvec It is a bountiful dish and a great crowd pleaser, the leftovers also freeze well. If you don’t have a clay / earthenware pot, a cast iron casserole dish, a heavy ramekin dish or a heavy based pot like Le Creuset would work too. For a vegetarian version, simply omit the meat. Mushrooms would work really well here instead of meat.
- 450gr / 1 lb. chicken breasts, cut into 3 -4 chunks
- 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
- 3 medium potatoes, skinned, quartered
- 1 green and 1 red bell (or pointy) pepper, coarsely chopped
- 250 gr fresh runner (or French, dwarf) beans, trimmed and cut in three parts
- 2 small or 1 large zucchini, sliced
- 1 eggplant (aubergine), quartered and cut in small chunks
- 1 can of 400 gr/14 oz. chopped tomatoes
- 15ml /1 tbsp. red pepper paste (optional)
- 15 ml/ 1 tbsp. tomato paste
- 2 lb. / 4 cups of water
- 30 ml/ 2 tbsp. olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste
- Red pepper flakes to serve
- Dollops of plain yoghurt to serve
- Spread the eggplant slices over a tray and sprinkle salt over them. After 15 minutes, dry the eggplants with paper towel to get rid of its bitter juices.
- Heat the olive oil in the pot and stir in chicken pieces and onion. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste and red pepper paste and sauté for another 3 minutes.
- Now, start layering the vegetables, bearing in mind to layer the vegetables that need longer cooking period towards the bottom of the pan.
- Layer the potato slices over the chicken, then the runner beans.
- Next layer the bell peppers, courgettes and aubergine.
- Stir in the chopped tomatoes and water.
- Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, as well as red pepper flakes if you like more heat.
- Do not stir the guvec pot; cover and start cooking at medium heat, until it starts to bubble.
- Once bubbling, turn the heat to low and simmer and gently cook for 2 hours, covered.
- Once cooked, turn the heat off and let the Guvec rest in the earthenware pot for 30 minutes. The flavors blend and settle deliciously. Check the seasoning and add more salt and ground black pepper if needed.
- You can serve Tavuk guvec with these flavorful potato & bulgur patties and a dollop of plain yoghurt aside.