Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pastor's Ragout (Papaz Yahnisi)

This dish originally comes from the northwest cuisine of Turkey and is a lovely product of different cultures in that region.

There are different stories about as to why it is called "pastor's ragout":
Some say it was cooked by Christian minorities in that area during Ottoman Empire who used to make this dish with wine, and when Ottomans adapted it into their cuisine, they used vinegar instead.
Others say it was a Turkish dish and a pastor from the minorities ate this at a Turkish neighbor's home and loved it.

Well, it doesn't matter where it comes from; it is just a little story to tell while you are eating this dish! Enjoy!

Ingredients: (Serves 2-4)

  • 20-25 oz. beef for stew, cut into 1" cubes
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup water, plus more if necessary
  • 1/2 of a 14-oz-package frozen petite whole onions (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar


  • Heat the oil and butter in a pot over medium-high heat. Add the beef, black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon salt and saute over medium-high heat until the beef cubes are seared (the meat will release its juice and then absorb it back and the cubes will turn nicely brown - be careful not to burn them, though).
  • Add 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook (simmer) the beef cubes until tender. If necessary, add more water in small amounts along the way to prevent the stew from drying.
  • Add the onions, garlic cloves, vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon salt (and more water, if necessary) and continue simmering until onions are translucent and tender (soft to the bite, but not falling apart) for about 15 min.

Additional points:

  • Since meat is the main ingredient in this dish, quality/tenderness matters. Try to buy the best quality stew meat you can afford. For this dish, i/o buying regular "beef for stew", I buy "beef for fondue".
  • If you like cooking w/ wine, you can substitute vinegar w/ wine (red or white).
  • Some recipes also add spices like cinnamon, cumin and allspice. You may want to experiment with these spices when cooking this dish.
  • Salt measurements given above are suggestions; you may adjust them according to your taste and health issues. Instead of using salt and water, you can also use beef stock (in that case, do not add salt during cooking; taste it at the end, then add salt if necessary)
  • You can substitute petite onions w/ pearl onions.
  • Meat may take a long time to cook until tender. That's why I always cook this kind of stews in a pressure cooker. It obviously reduces the necessary water amount and cooking time considerably, but these vary from model to model. I use a primitive model which still works for me after 15 years. Mine cooks this meat with 1 cup water, in 50-60 minutes, depending on the toughness of the meat; then I add the onions etc. and cook for another 15 minutes. A newer, more modern version would probably take much less time.

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