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Lovački Djuveč

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 27 April 2011 at 10:35
Lovački Djuveč, or "hunter's stew, is a variation of Djuveč, a savory Serbian casserole or stew with a long and interesting history reaching back through the centuries.
 
Wiki, using a more modern spelling of djuveč, provides some information here:
 
Quote Đuveč is a Bulgarian, Macedonian and Serbian oven-baked beef and vegetable stew....The name Đuveč comes from the Turkish word güveç 'earthernware pot'. The name of the Greek dish giouvetsi has the same origin, but is rather different.
 
Wiki also provided a picture of one variation of Djuveč, which resembles Hungarian gulyás and certainly has common roots with it:
 
 
I turned up some additional research on how some foods migrated into the Balkans and became everyday staples in Balkan cooking, attributed to one Dora Smith:
 
Quote The Turks brought rice, tomatoes and peppers to the Balkans in the 15th through 17th centuries. They also brought the name djuveč...(pronounced juvech) [From the Turkish güveç, which roughly translates to "casserole...." [In] Romania it's called ghiveci (gh like the gee in geese) (veci like the seaweed vetch). Also known by the same name (with slightly different pronunciation) in Bulgaria. There's a...similar dish in Cyprus called yiouvetsi. My grandmother used to make it. It's wheat grains with slivers of meat in a tomato sauce, baked for hours in a traditional wood-fired oven. Yum!!

Here [are] my notes from the library:

Moslems brought rice from Middle East to Mediterranean about 900, but cultivation of rice in the area began only 500 years ago and [the] use of rice in diet [was] long limited by the supply. (Another history says Romans used rice but only wealthy could afford it as it was imported from India.)

The Turks [probably] diffused American plants[such as tomatoes and peppers] to eastern Mediterranean [countries] in [the] 16th [century], when [the] Ottoman Empire was dominant. They picked up the plants in Spanish or Italian ports and took them to other countries [Example: Paprika to Hungary in 1526].

Peppers and maize also became popular items of the Balkan diet. Fernand Braudel wrote [that] Turks introduced rice, sesame seeds, cotton, and maize into the area in the 15th and 16th centuries. [Edgar] Anderson[, an historical botanist,] noted that there is a wide and apparently coherent area encompassing the Balkans and Turkey, running along the edge of Iran toward Arabia and Ethiopia, where the tomato has been used for centuries in the everday diet of common people.
 
[The] culinary legacy of Turks still evident in...cuisine from Yugoslavia in the east to Algeria in the west....
 
From Time/Life's Foods of the World - The Cooking of Vienna's Empire - 1968:

Quote Lovački Djuveč
Hunter's Stew
 
To serve 4 to 6

8 slices bacon, chopped
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onions
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 cup scraped and sliced carrots
2 cups water
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup converted rice
2 medium green peppers, with seeds and ribs removed and cut into slices 1/4-inch wide and 2 inches long (about 1 1/2 cups), sliced in strips
1 1/4 cp beef stock
Salt
 
In a 10- or 12-inch skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes, or until it has rendered most of its fat and is slightly crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, reserve it and pour off all but a thin film of the fat from the skillet.
 
Add the onions and, stirring occasionally, cook them for 3 or 4 minutes, or until they are slightly translucent, then add the garlic and carrots and cook for 5 or 6 minutes longer.
 
Return the reserved bacon to the skillet, stir in the water and vinegar, and add the beef cubes, the salt and a few grindings of black pepper. Reduce the heat to its lowest point and simmer, covered, for about 1 hour, or until the beef shows only a slight resistance when it is pierced with the tip of a small sharp knife.
 
Gradually stir in the rice and add the sliced peppers and 1 cup of the beef stock. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender but not mushy. Taste for seasoning. If at any point the rice becomes too dry or shows signs of sticking to the bottom of the pan, add the remaining beef stock.
 
Lovački djuveč is usually served as a main dish, accompanied by a mixed green salad.
 
One thing that my research turned up was that many ingredients will vary in djuveč, which can contain meat or not, but rice, peppers and most especially tomatoes seem to be constant hallmarks of this dish. For my preparation, I will substitute tomatoes for the green peppers. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 May 2011 at 12:18
well, folks - this was a resounding success; a wonderful, satisfying dish that i honestly enjoyed, and a truly historical bridge that spans from greece and turkey to the former yugoslavia, and even beyond to hungary. i will be making this one again, and i strongly recommend it to anyone looking for an easy, substantial meal on a cool grey day - or any day for that matter. this is something that is definitely different, but not so exotic that it is off-putting or intimidating - a true treasure from serbia.
 
naturally, we'll start with the goods, and it can't get much easier than this:
 
 
note that i substituted whole, canned tomatoes rather than using green peppers. this is perfectly acceptable and in keeping with the traditions of lovački djuveč, as both ingredients are very common and either, or both, may be used.
 
my preparation was for roughly a "recipe-and-a-half," which i figured would feed the family with leftovers for lunches. some of the amounts seen here might be more than called for, and that's the reason why.
 
my first order of business was trimming the beautiful, 4.5 chuck roast of most of its fat, then cutting the meat into good-sized chunks and cubes:
 
 
this local beef was raised, slaughtered and packaged not far from here, and as usual, turned out to be the perfect choice for this djuveč.
 
next came some steps that are familiar with similar dishes - dicing onions:
 
 
chopping garlic:
 
 
and, in this case, slicing and chopping some carrots into fairly uniform sized pieces so that they cook evenly:
 
 
to get the actual cooking started, i tossed some bacon into the dutch oven, clooking it slowly and stirring it often until it had rendered out as much fat as possible without burning:
 
 
as you can see here, i used thinner-sliced bacon when i should have gotten thick-sliced bacon! i strongly recommend that you learn from this - the thin stuff is fine, but the thick-sliced bacon will be much more satisfying as the pieces will hold up better to the final product.
 
once i poured off all but a thin film of the rendered fat, i tossed in the onions and got them cooking until they started to turn translucent:
 
 
you do not want them to carmelise or get very brown at all - just slowly cook and stir them over medium-low or medium heat until they turn a beautiful golden colour.
 
when the onions get where you want them to be, toss in the garlic and carrots, stirring over the same moderate heat for 5 or 6 minutes:
 
 
if the garlic starts to brown, you're going just a hair too far, you want the carrots to just begin to get soft on the outside.
 
when you get to that point, add the bacon back in and stir it around:
 
 
then add the water and wine vinegar, and also the chunks of beef:
 
 
finally, add salt and pepper to taste, and stir it all around.
 
this serbian djuveč is interesting in that, like hungarian gulyas, you do not want to sear or brown the meat before adding it to the liquids to simmer, as you would with other dishes - and even if you do decide to brown the meat anyway, you absolutely do not want to flour the meat or add any flour to the process at any time; slow simmering and the rice, which will be added later, will do the thickening for you!
 
once done, you can cover the kettle and then either reduce the heat to a low, low setting or put it in an oven at 275-300 and slowly simmer for at least an hour-and-a-half; even two hours would not be out-of-line. the purpose of the long, slow simmering is to give the collagen, fat and connective tissues in the cheap-yet-very-flavourful cuts of beef time to melt down and transform into wonderul flavour and texture.
 
in my case, i put this into the oven and took a couple of my kids fishing for a while. it was our first trip of the year and we had a good time, just outside of town on the milk river. my youngest son, roger, was the only one who caught anything - just a small whitefish, but it was the first of the year! right after that, it started raining, so we returned home a little early. i washed up and took the dutch oven out of the oven, and saw this when i lifted the lid:
 
 
perfect! the beef was almost completely transformed into wonderful, fork-tender chunks, and the aroma in the kitchen was mouth-watering in its simple, savory goodness - i was eager to get this one finished and to try it, so i got down to business - mashing the tomatoes just a little with a potato masher to break them up and adding them to the djuveč, along with the rice:
 
 
i've got to put in a plug here for the canned, whole tomatoes from wal-mart - i was not sure what to expect, as i normally buy cans of diced or crushed tomatoes, but these were asolutely wonderful, and very, very good for the price. i will certainly be using them more in the future!
 
after adding these components, along with the beef stock, i gave a short, very gentle stir to let the rice settle to the bottom of the kettle, bringing the contents just to the cusp of a boil:
 
 
then i immediately reduced heat down to the lowest setting, covered it and let it simmer for about half an hour so that the rice could absorb all of this liquid and flavour, whilst also thickening the final dish; all this while the beef finished the last of its transformation into tender, rich chunks of love. sure enough - when the time came, i lifted the lid to see this:
 
 
now how good-looking is THAT?! i was impressed, and craving this by now - the smells and the sights were about as good as can be. my dad, who happened to drop by right about then, remarked that it looked like him to be very similar to the gulyas that he enjoyed as a kid, and considering the ingredients, the history and the geography of the dish, i'd have to agree. the rice (rather than potatoes or noodles) is the unique thing here, and it certainly makes for a special experience.
 
after stirring the finished djuveč around a little, i served it up:
 
 
you can see how thick this is, as well as how savory-good:
 
 
it's not hard at all to see the turkish and greek influences, melding perfectly with the best of southern and eastern europe:
 
 
i passed it out to the family and we got down to trying it:
 
 
 
all i can say is that this was outstanding, having everything that one likes in a rich, thick, hearty meal. every flavour came through, from the sweet carrots to the tang of the wine and tomatoes, to the tender, rich, beefy goodness of the chuck cubes. the garlic, onion and other seasonings all played their parts perfectly, and the rice was the matrix that held it all together beautifully - making this much, much more than a simple beef stew or a casserole - it was djuveč!
 
everyone enjoyed this and had seconds - which means there were no leftovers! oh well - maybe next time....i really enjoyed this one, and i am pretty sure that you would too, if you gave it a try.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 May 2011 at 16:07
Inspiring! Great effort!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Boilermaker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 May 2011 at 18:05
Very nice, Ron.  Looks delicious and yes, very similar to bogracs gulyas.  These Eastern European one pot dishes really are wonderful and without exception just seem to be can't miss dishes.  I will have to give this a try, I love this sort of thing.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 May 2011 at 21:53
it's guaranteed good, guys - you can't go wrong!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hoser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 May 2011 at 05:41
It sure looks outstanding to me...I'm just curious Ron, as to the reason for not browning the chuck before putting it in. We all know browning makes yummy flavors, so is it strictly an eastern European thing?

I'll be trying this recipe for sure, but I'm not sure about the browning thing...I'd hate to have a gypsy curse on my kitchen for the rest of my life.Wink
Go ahead...play with your food!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 May 2011 at 07:19
i'm not entirely sure of the reason, dave, but i do remember it being specifically stated in some reading i did on gulyas. i am sure it goes back to the origins of the dish and will see if i can find the article again. at the time, i simply skimmed it, but now i'm curious as to the reason. it might be as simple as not interfering with the final colouring, or maybe it was because this is supposed to be a simple, one-dish meal - who, knows? i can say that the dish didn't seem to suffer, but i did wonder the same thing.

whenever i do a dish for the first time, i try to "keep it original," and usually recommend that to others as well; always room for variation and experimentation when doing subsequent attempts, i figure. of course, one could brown the meat anyway, but then who knows if it would still be djuveč?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 May 2011 at 09:59
dave - this all applies to gulyas, so the mileage may vary ~ my guess is that the reasons may be similar for djuveč, since it began as a "traveling" dish as well.
 
after doing some searching, i'm unable to find the specific article i was referring to above mentioning the actual reasons for not searing the meat in gulyas; however, but i did find about a 50/50 split in methods, about half of the recipes say to brown the meat about half do not mention browning the meat.
 
all sources that delved into the history of gulyas agreed that began as a meal prepared by cattle drovers out in the field watching the herds - based on this, i am inclined to think that when they used beef from an animal that had just been killed for whatever reason (injuries, perhaps), the meat was simply chunked up and added to the recipe. the slow, slow cooking would have served the dual purpose of letting the emat get tender whilst also allowing the juices of the meat to become the gravy.
 
because of this, it is my opinion (and we all know about opinions!) that browning of the meat became a refinement, something done in the kitchen to give slight improvement an old, historical dish when people adapted the cattle drovers' gulyas for use in the home. simply, put: if you're looking for an historical experience based on a meal cooked by hungarian cowboys who gathered most of their ingredients there in the field, don't brown the meat; however, if you want to prepare a good dish that has many wonderful flavours of hungary, go ahead and give it the benefits of searing - either way is great!
 
as i said above, these conclusions are based on a quick research session and not meant to be conclusive - i'll do some reading in my FOTW boook at home tonight, and report on what that says. andy covered it pretty well in his gulyas post (link above), but there might be a few bits of information here and there regarding the origins and the method.
 
one of these days, i'll also own culinaria hungary as well, and i am willing to bet some good answers can be found there!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hoser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 May 2011 at 13:06
Well, I have a batch in the Dutch oven as we speak, and yes....I did brown the beef. I'll be back later with some pics and a review.
Go ahead...play with your food!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 May 2011 at 13:18
looking forward to it!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Boilermaker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 May 2011 at 17:58
My understanding from the study I have done is that the Magyar shepherds and their counterparts of old who created these dishes many moons ago originally used chunks of dried beef, sort of like our jerky but unseasoned and probably closer to the biltong of Africa than jerky proper.  They kept these chunks of dried beef in their packs, they kept well and for long periods of time and were easy to transport, and then when they were ready to use them simply tossed them in a dehydrated state into their stews to rehydrate and cook until tender.   
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hoser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 May 2011 at 02:36
You know Andy...that makes perfect sense, doesn't it? Now I'm glad I browned my beef...they probably already had all the flavor and spices in theirs as they dried it.

Anyway...it came out quite nice. A belly-filling meal for sure...not something I will make often, but it will come to mind whenever I'm looking for "something different".


Go ahead...play with your food!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 May 2011 at 07:19
that looks exactly right, dave - and yep, it's a belly-filler for sure. Thumbs Up glad that you gave it a try and got perfect results.

andy, i read pretty much the same thing last night. it looks to me like a person can go either way, and i plan to brown the beef when i next make this, to see how it tastes.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 June 2011 at 11:18
"daBoone" over at the handloader's bench gave this a try, and had this to say about it:
 
Quote About 45 minutes to go. I've got a daughter, 2 sons and all their family over. So it won't be just my opinion when I report. But I'm already getting some feedback that it smells good enough already! ;-)
 
~later~
 
Lovački Djuveč , I can't pronounce it but the family proclamation was "LOVE that STEW! So its been named "LOVE STEW". Repeat performances requested.

Thanks for the straight forward and excellent recipe.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 November 2017 at 10:27
I'm bringing this back up to the top because it is definitely that time of year, and also because of our recent discussions on earthenware cooking.

When Brook and I were discussing this dish via email, he did have an important historical note regarding the introduction of rice:

Quote The Mongols brought rice to the eastern Mediterranean; later, when the Ottomans converted to Islam, they became great rice eaters, particularly after their greater contact with their Persian counterparts.


I'm thinking that I may have to follow Brook's lead and purchase a Güveç, and then give this a try. This dish was born in such a cooking vessel, and I would very much enjoy touching the history of Balkan foodways with it. Aside from that, For those of you wondering what a Güveç cooking vessel is like, here is some information:

https://www.tulumba.com/products/3741-earthenware-pot-non-coated-small/Default.asp

And yes, I do intend to sear the meat, adding that layer of flavor and depth of character!

I'll see how things go, but that's the plan....
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