The earthenware pot where the ingredients are cooked together used to be called a ‘ghiveci’ and hence it gave its name to a whole category of dishes. It can be made with lamb, chicken or rabbit and/or vegetables, especially aubergines, okra or as in my recipe below, anything that you have in the pantry. It originated in the old Ottoman empire and since then it has spread widely throughout the Balkans and in Romania. The pot is round and deep, with a lid, and distributes the heat evenly, keeping the food warm for longer when served at the table. There is a similarity here with a ‘tagine’.
I’ve spoken with Musa Dagdeviren about the ghiveci. ’The size of the güveç type casserole varies according to the size of your family or community. All the dishes are traditionally cooked in a wood oven or directly over an open fire. Apart from covering the pot with its lid or a wrought iron mould, a güveç can also be covered with tail fat and caul fat.’
This brings me to the next point. As Musa says in his book: fat is flavour. This is one of those dishes that ask for quite a lot of oil. The more you use, the more flavour will develop. In this recipe, I used 100ml, but it is totally up to you to adjust the quantity.
In Romania, we cook a ‘ghiveci’ without having this particular pot, but we often use a ‘ceaun’, a cauldron that is usually hung over the open fire. A large casserole dish will do too, and we can start to prepare the dish on the stove then move it into the oven. But the pot itself has lost its name. Funnily enough, the only usage of the word ‘ghiveci’ as a pot in Romanian refers to ‘flower pots’.
Serve 4-6 people
3 medium size onions – sliced
4 garlic cloves – diced
2 aubergines – diced
1 medium size cauliflower – broken into small florets
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 bag of French beans -trimmed
2 Romano peppers – sliced
2 courgettes – sliced
4 garlic cloves
1 bunch parley
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Cover the bottom of a deep, ovenproof casserole dish with a thin layer of cooking oil (not olive oil). Heat well, then add the sliced onions with a generous pinch of salt and cook on medium heat until they start to caramelise. Add the garlic, aubergines and cauliflower and cook for a further 10 minutes. You may need to add a splash or two of oil, if the aubergines absorb too much. Mix in the chopped tomatoes and passata, cover and place in the oven at 200C, until the cauliflower is just tender. Carefully take the pan out of the oven and add the French beans, cooking for another 10 minutes in the oven, then add the sliced courgettes and peppers, cooking further for another 5 minutes.
In the meantime, pound the garlic with the parsley to form a rough paste, and add the vinegar. Stir this in before serving and enjoy the dish with bread or as it is.
About Musa Dagdeviren: is a Turkish chef renowned for his commitment to document and preserve traditional Turkish cuisine and for his approach to its diversity. He spent years collecting traditional recipes from across five main regions of Turkey, and by doing so, he rescued them from oblivion. They were published in a book called ‘The Turkish Cookbook’, link here. You might have seen him on Netflix, where he told his remarkable story in an episode of Chef’s Table.