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Testi (mug in Turkish) Kebap (meat in Turkish) is basically a stew of meat, tomatoes and some vegetables. There is a high proportion of meat in this stew.
The traditional method of cooking is to place the ingredients inside a sealed clay jug. The clay jug is then placed in the coals at the bottom of a tandir, which is a large clay pot oven buried in the earth. This is a traditional meal from Cappadocia.
When cooked, the still sealed clay jug is then delivered to your table, after having been left for 5 minutes when removed from the coals. The neck of the clay jug is then gently broken in front of you and the “lid” removed. Luckily the waiter performs this potentially embarrassing task!
Remarkably, it makes a clean, horizontal break. You then serve yourselves from the remaining intact remnants of the clay jug. How cool is that?
There are various sizes of the clay jugs. The normal size is one that comfortably feeds 2 to 3 people. For larger parties, there are larger clay jugs that will feed more people.
The stew is therefore extremely hot on arrival at your table, so there is no need to rush. You can linger while you eat knowing that there is more warm stew to go back to when you want your seconds or thirds.
The stew is gloriously rich, with the juices of the meat, tomatoes and vegetables having melded within their sealed container.
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We tried this delicious dish twice when in Turkey.
The first time was in a small restaurant called Harem Cafe & Restaurant in Istanbul, not far from the Blue Mosque. There there were 4 options:
- combination (all 3).
We went for the combination. It was a dish for 2 and it was good. It came with rice and there was plenty there for 2 people. Cost was 60 TL ($23 USD).
We knew Cappadocia was the home of Testi Kebap, an area that is famous for its pottery and ceramics. So our hotel in Goreme, recommended the Orient Restaurant, also in Goreme. Here Testi Kebap was served as a single serve. Cost was 30 TL ($12 USD). There were 2 options:
- beef and lamb
- chicken and vegetables
We went for the beef and lamb. It was gloriously rich and there was a high proportion of meat. It was better than the Harem version.
We had another great dish at the Orient Restaurant called Sak Tava. This is another traditional dish from the Cappadocia area and I have to say that it was just as good as the Testi Kebap. So we heartily recommend the Orient Restaurant.
So as you can imagine cooking Testi Kebap utilizing the traditional clay pot is a fairly cool party trick. It is possible to source the clay jug for its one time use, but remember, it needs to go into the embers of a fire or underground oven containing coals if you want the full traditional approach. Here is more information about how to buy clay jugs to cook testi kebap in the traditional method.
But don’t worry you don’t need to go to the extent of finding a disposable clay pot to achieve a great result at home. With this recipe you are all set with a good casserole dish and an oven!
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- 2 lbs stewing beef or stewing lamb or combo cut into 1 inch (3cm) cubes*
- 2 sprigs rosemary, fresh leaves removed
- salt, ground sea
- 10 cloves garlic peeled
- 1/2 tbsp pul biber * or substitute with chilli flakes
- 1/2 tbsp black pepper, ground
- drizzle olive oil
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 4 onions, brown medium, diced
- 3 bell peppers (capsicums), green medium, diced
- 7 tomatoes medium, peeled, diced*
- 1 tbsp pepper paste *
- 1 tsp paprika, mild
- 1 tbsp thyme, fresh leaves only
- 1/2 tsp salt, ground sea
- 1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
- Place the cubed meat into a bowl.
- Put a pinch of sea salt and the rosemary leaves into a mortar. Pound until course. Add to the bowl containing the meat. Add a larger pinch of salt to the mortar and all of the peeled garlic. Pound until a rough paste forms. Add to the meat. Add the pul biber and the ground black pepper to the meat. Drizzle over some olive oil. Stir to combine. Cover the bowl with kitchen wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours. Overnight is even better!
- Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees f (160 c).
- Using a heavy-based, oven proof casserole dish, heat half the olive oil over a medium heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring for 3 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Remove the onion. Add the remaining olive oil, add the meat and brown lightly on all sides. Add the onions back into the dish with the remaining ingredients. Stir occasionally until the tomatoes break down and start to simmer. Remove from the heat and place a tight fitting lid on the casserole dish.
- Place the casserole into the oven for 45 minutes.
- Serve with steamed rice (or for paleo use mashed parsnip or mashed cauliflower). Optionally, you can also serve crisped pita bread and a green salad.
Buy good quality stewing meat. I like the combination of beef and lamb. If your butcher does not stock lamb you can buy it from here. We have also seen Australian lamb legs at Costco, perfect for this dish.
For an authentic taste, use pul biber. You can substitute with red chilli flakes.
To peel tomatoes, stab each one 5 or 6 times and place into a bowl of recently boiled water. Carefully remove after 5 minutes and the skin will easily peel off.
The Turkish pepper paste gives this dish an underlying depth of flavor. If you can't source it, use Turkish tomato paste.
We have a place in the Aydin province of Turkey (Mavisehir) and Test Kebab is one of my firm favourites when eating out . I have sampled it in the few different areas of Turkey that I have visited, more are added each year.
We returned on the 1st October and already I’m missing my Turkish cuisine so tonight sans the clay pot we’re cooking up a Testi kebab for myself & my partners son & his friend. I’ll be sure to let you know how it turned out.
We’re even having the starter of bread with the tomato and the yoghurt dips (do you have recipe for these please?
Hi Jez. Thanks for your comment. As you can tell we also loved Testi Kebap when we were in Turkey. It is such a rich tasting meal. I’m afriad we can’t help you out with a recipe for the starter of bread with the tomato and yogurt dips. We have featured various Turkish mezes here. This includes 2 mezes with yogurt. All the mezes were good, give 1 or more a try. We have also featured tzatziki.
Let us know how the testi kebap went.
Thank you for sharing this recipe. My husband and I ate at the Orient in 2013 and it was the absolute best dish I’ve ever had. I have searched and searched for Turkish restaurants in the US but none of them make this dish.
I know, it’s a classic isn’t it? Turkish food is very much underrated. Such a pity because it is healthy and full of great taste. We also enjoyed the Orient as you can tell.
kate @veggie desserts
Wow – I’d love to have the chance to cook in a clay jug like this. It must make for such a wonderful flavour !
Yes very good flavor Kate. We saw plenty of vegetarian versions as well. But it is the breaking of the claypot that is the fun part. Thanks for your comment.
Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy
We don’t eat meat, but the stew part of this sounds lovely!
Hi Danii, good on you for commenting. In Turkey they also use the claypot for vegetarian recipes as well, mainly eggplant and tomato based. The claypot does ensure a slowish cooking to bring those juices out. Thanks for your comment.
Well, I will have to do without the clay pot… but that is interesting. What a cool presentation.
The stew itself sounds delicious (even in an ordinary casserole… ) with plenty of flavor.
You definitely don’t need a throw-away claypot Anne, that’s for sure. Any casserole dish will do. It is a tasty meal. Thanks for your comment.