Turkish Belen Tava is a dish that I first tried to make recently, but which I have actually tasted a number of times. And it has definitely been different every time.
Because just as with our own casserole dishes and stews, oven dishes are also very different in Turkey. And in most cases they are an expression of whatever vegetables leftovers you have in your fridge. Ie you can actually use whatever you feel like in this dish (although especially the tomatoes, the long green Sivri peppers and the red peppers are really important).
My mother-in-law is really good at making such oven dishes or “baking tray dishes” as I call them. Often she has made a huge baking tray filled with delicious vegetables and topped with meat and a bit oil or butter and then right into the oven.
Now with test rabbits:
You probably recognize it, but sometimes it’s really nice with some kind of “quick” dishes. Dishes that just have to be cut, seasoned and messed together and then into the oven for an hour or two or even more. Then you can do a lot of other things, while the food just prepares itself.
And it was really really practical the other day, when I had invited 15 of my dear colleagues to dinner. A lot of food had to be prepared, because I can’t quite control myself, when many people come to visit. This is how I like to cook Turkish food. Many different small dishes, so there is plenty of time to enjoy and talk and try several different things.
The advantage is also, that when many people come to visit, it is easy to make a few old favorites, that you know are just really good. And then there is room to experiment with something new.
And I had 15 test rabbits to experiment with. Luxury. Fortunately, it seemed like they were all pretty crazy about this turkish Belen Tava. And honestly, it would also make me wonder, if they weren’t. Because it’s just super mega good. Smushi (ie lightly messy and cooked well together) and full of many different flavors, that just go up in a higher unit.
Quick and a bit strong:
Turkish Belen Tava comes from the Belen district, located at Hatay / Antakya – the most south-eastern part of Turkey. This means that onions, tomatoes and peppers are important ingredients. And that the food is often a bit stronger, than in the rest of Turkey. Especially the slightly strong green peppers. They actually look like a Sivri pepper, but are thinner and narrower than it – and thus significantly stronger. So this is a warning – be careful how many you spend. They are so unpredictable …
When you make this dish, it is important that it gets time to get a bit well boiled, so that it becomes delicious and greasy at the bottom. Perfect for the homemade flatbreads, that you also serve. And believe me…. it’s worth the effort. I simply love to sit and eat and pick up food with pieces of flat bread. It just tastes even better 😉 And then it is also quite cosy right?
It was rather easy the other day, because I had enticed my mother-in-law to bake flat bread. For she is the master of making them. The breads did well in the freezer and I simply led them stand at the kitchen table for an hour or two to defrost. Then they were really ready for the guests. Easy right?
Turkish Belen Tava:
As I wrote before, you can use the vegetables (and meat) you have in your fridge. I used onions, peppers – reds and greens, tomatoes and lamb meat in cubes. That was all…
But a little eggplant in the dough and a little potatoes, squash or similar could also be good. And also maybe some garlic.
The taste is of course influenced by how good your ingredients are, what meat you use and what pan you use (yes, you read right. Explanation will come later).
The raw materials speak for themselves. And the meat…. I can only recommend you to grab some good lamb cut into cubes. The meat I got was cut into slightly large and elongated cubes, so I cut them into slightly smaller pieces. They became about 1½ x 3 cm – they shrink a lot during the roasting.
I will clearly use lamb if I can find it, but beef can of course also be used. Just make sure it is not too lean, as it will quickly dry out (and don’t put the oven on hot air. It will dry out a bit too). So care for it a bit.
Good food and a good pan:
And then to the pan … Why is it so important now, you might ask yourself? And frankly … I don’t know. But that’s it. It just tastes different whether you use a porcelain dish (like I did the first time) or a really good cast iron pan. It sounds crazy … I know. But this is how we experience it at home. (And just think about what the really good steak restaurants often serve the food at….). So there’s something about that, I think.
Then if you have a good cast iron pot, frying pan or dish – use it. Soon, I think, I’m going to search for a pan big enough. I only have (several) small ones.
But then … basically … cut some vegetables, season them, put meat on top with some melted butter (preferably Turkish tereyag – butter, if you can find it) and then … vupti, into the oven.
It is easy right ??
Afiyet Olsun…. Enjoy the refreshments
Turkish Belen Tava – meat with vegetables
- 1 kg lamp meat, cut into cubes of 1½ – 3 cm
- 3 pieces long red snack peppers, cut into medium large pieces
- 3-4 pieces long green sivri peppers, also cut into medium large pieces, You can also use the strobger, thin ones, but be careful
- 5-6 pieces mature red tomatoes, cut into cubes
- 2 large onions, cut into cubes
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp pul biber, turkish chili flakes
- salt and pepper
- 50-100 grams butter, preferable Tereyag butter
- 1: Turn on the oven at 200 degrees (not hot air)2: Cut all the vegetables into medium chunks (the onions slightly smaller) and put them all in a ovenproof dish – preferables iron pan (it makes a difference)3: Season with salt, pepper, pul biber and thyme and turn it all around4: Cut the meat to the correct size and place on top of the vegetables. Also get some salt and pepper on here5: Melt the butter and pour it over the meat and vegetables6: Put in the preheated oven and fry for about 45-50 minutes, depending on how your oven is. Make sure it doesn't get too dark (and dry)7: Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes or more – serve warm.– Serve with flatbread and possibly rice or bulgur
The dish is made for 4 adult people. But if you are very hungry, it is good with a little Turkish rice or bulgur for example – and of course flat bread. On the other hand, there is food for several people, if you serve many different dishes together with this one.