Food

Kavurma: The quintessential Eid al-Adha dish with extensive history

Ayla Coskun

ANKARA: Known as Qurban Bayram in Turkey, Eid al-Adha or the Feast of Sacrifice is when millions of Muslims celebrate the holiday, a time for splendid meat dishes and get-togethers for families, relatives and neighbors.

It is customary to sacrifice an animal and usually, the resulting meat is plenty; however, even if you don’t have one slaughtered, the prices for meat in general drop by a bit, making it a great time to stock up or indulge in some yummy dishes.

There are quite a few things you need to consider while preparing the meat. A thing that I have written about extensively.

Kavurma: An ancient way to preserve meat

Cooking meat in its own juices and fat has been the way to preserve meat for centuries, and considering the nomadic roots of the Turks it is no surprise that they perfected that over the years. While many make this dish to consume directly – I mean who can say no to perfectly cooked meat – you can store it up to several months. The consistency and mark of a great kavurma, according to the Turks at least, is when it melts in your mouth like lokum, known in English as Turkish delight.

The first recipe I am giving here is to be consumed immediately, while the second one will focus on the long-storing version.

Ingredients

  • 500 grams of meat
  • 1 onion
  • 200 milliliters water
  • salt, pepper, thyme
  • a bit of the animal’s fat or vegetable oil

Instructions

Cut the meat into small cubes and braise it in a steel pot until it releases its juices. Do not use Teflon as it will only smell bad and when the heat is high enough the meat won’t stick to the steel pot at all. Once the juices have cooked off, chop the onions and toss them in with the meat with some of the fat of your choice and cook that for about three to four minutes. Add the water and turn the heat down to low and let that simmer with the lid closed. The meat should soften within 30 minutes of cooking but that might change depending on the animal and how much the meat had rested beforehand. Once the meat is soft, add the spices and serve hot.

To make it even tastier you can use some herbs. (Shutterstock Photo)
To make it even tastier you can use some herbs. (Shutterstock Photo)

The save-for-later version

Ingredients

  • 1 kilogram of meat
  • 500 grams of the animal’s fat
  • salt

Instructions

Get a steel pot and heat it up before adding the meat. Then braise it until it releases its juices by stirring occasionally. The juices will produce a kind of foam that you’ll want to remove with the help of a spoon or ladle. The more you can remove, the better. Close the lid of the pot and let the meat cook for about 40-45 minutes on low heat to cook down the liquid. If the liquid of the meat is not sufficient to cook it through you might want to add a little water. Add salt to your taste once the meat is done.

In a separate pot melt the fat of the animal slowly. Some people swear by tail fat but that is not necessary. Remove any pieces that are not fat from the pot. Then pour this over the meat and cook it together for about two to three minutes. Turn the heat off and let the meat mix rest for five minutes. Now it is your choice to put it in any container you like. It is preferred to make it round here in Turkey so many cut a plastic bottle’s neck off, add the mix and let it cool to room temperature. Cover it completely with a plastic bag or something similar and let it cool in the fridge overnight. The next day you can remove it from the bottle and cut it into portions to your liking. Pack the portions and keep them in the freezer for however long you like (just not years!).

Turkish scrambled eggs with kavurma. (Shutterstock Photo)
Turkish scrambled eggs with kavurma. (Shutterstock Photo)

What to make with the storage-friendly kavurma?

You can put this meat in any dish you like that could go well with meat. One favorite of mine is to get a thin slice of the meat and first melt off the excess fat (to be used in other food) and once the meat is warm, crack a few eggs over it. With minimal effort you get yourself a protein-rich and quite delicious breakfast, especially if you have guests over.

Another favorite is to again unfreeze the meat and warm it up again on a pan and pair it with rice. But to make the presentation really fancy you can wet a small bowl and put a few spoonfuls of the meat into that. Now top that off with some rice and press it down a bit. Turn the bowl upside down and you get yourself a nice and clean presentation.

But why stay limited to that? You can enhance the meat with some other vegetables by roasting some onions, peppers and even tomatoes to get a bit of acidity into the mix. Cooking them in the fat of the meat will give it an extra edge and if seasonings are added to your liking you can serve this pretty much with anything as a side. Not a very Turkish take would be cooked potatoes as they are great to soak up the juices the vegetables will release.

Get your hands on some pizza dough (or if you are in Turkey you can just ask your bakery for one bread dough) roll it out, and with the addition of some onion and your kavurma, you’ll get yourself a pide, or a Turkish pizza of sorts. You can even chop the kavurma a bit smaller to get more out of the meat and mix in other veggies as described beforehand. Adding a bit of cheese can’t hurt either but that depends on your taste as well.

Courtesy: Daily Sabah

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