Testi Kebab are an Anatolian speciality, prepared in a clay pot or jug shaped cooking utensil which helps preserve the freshness, aroma and flavours of the kebab as the ingredients cook slowly in their own juices. Traditionally the cooking pot was sealed with bread dough and buried in hot ashes in a tandoor or clay oven to simmer away for hours.
Electric and gas ovens have made the process easier for us home cooks and made it possible to enjoy this centuries old delicacy in the comfort of our own home even with our busy life styles.
This dish is actually a meat and vegetable casserole. In restaurants, the traditional pot is broken open right on the serving table for a little theatre for the customers. Now that pot is not available everywhere in the world but we can certainly improvise and use something from our own kitchen to create the same cooking environment for the ingredients.
Any type of earthenware casserole dish can be used for this dish, which confers a delicious earthy smell to the final dish. Even heavy based casserole dishes work just fine, they just do not confer the same smell. Luckily, in most cultures, some form of clay pot cooking is done, like we have our clay handis in South Asia which should work just fine for this purpose. The cooking technique is quite similar to the Dum Pukht and Sajji methods we use to make biryani and roasts in South Asia, handed down to us by Mongols and Mughals.
Ingredients can slightly vary in different recipes. Some people add potatoes or eggplants to make the stew more filling. Also you can use any of your favourite herb for flavouring instead of thyme; basil, oregano, rosemary, mint and tarragon can add lovely flavour to it. The heat loving palates can chop a few green chilli peppers or add red chilli flakes to suit their taste.
1 big onion, cut into cubes
2 carrots, peeled and cut into cubes
4 green bell peppers, cut into cubes
3 tomatoes, diced
1 head garlic
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
Dried or fresh thyme for flavouring
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
This Is What You Do:
Add the pieces of meat, carrots, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes to a big mixing bowl. Add paprika, black pepper, thyme and salt. Combine all the ingredients.
Pour olive oil into a ceramic pot or casserole dish. Choose a dish deep enough so that that it doesn’t get completely filled with the ingredients. There should be some space inside to allow the steam to build and move around.
Add the meat chunks and vegetable mix to cooking pot. Chuck in the garlic head or you can add 2-3 cloves chopped garlic. There is no need to add extra water for chicken because it gets cooked pretty easily in the juices from vegetables. But if you are using lamb or beef, add 1/2 cup water.
Cover the casserole dish tightly, either with bread dough or foil paper. The dish should be airtight. Make a tiny whole in the centre of the dough or foil lid for a little steam to escape.
Place in the hot oven and allow to braise slowly. Cook chicken for 1 hour, lamb and beef for 2+1/2 hour.
Serve hot from the oven, remove the lid right at the table to wow your guests with the aromatic steam that bursts out of the pot as soon as the lid is removed. Just be careful while doing, better wear your oven mittens to save your hands.
Serve with toasted pita bread or saffron rice and hummus or thick yogurt.