Dimlama (Turkic Harvest Stew)

With the release of The Heritage Cookbook last week, I’m ready to get back to how it all started–blogging. And honestly, it feels pretty great to be back in the saddle, fiddling with my old writing tools and codes. We’ll start pretty light for now, with recipes from my new book. I figure that since there are less than two months left to put in your order for the special print edition of the book, you won’t mind if I share recipes and stories from the four years it took me to get it into your hands!

Dimlama is a stew popular in Central Asia (especially Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan), made during that short window when vegetables are in season. It’s hard to grow vegetables above the ground on the Central Asian steppes, because constant winds are disruptive to the growing process; that’s why Central Asian cuisine has historically relied on underground vegetables like onions and carrots as their source of vegetables.

Preparing this dish is relatively simple: grab all the vegetables you have available, and layer them over meat (usually lamb, but sometimes beef or horsemeat), cover and simmer until everything is tender. No need to add water – the vegetables will release their own liquid. And it turns out that this dish is actually a bit of a revelation to cook, because it really brings awareness to the vegetables’ subtle flavors. Plus this meat-to-veggies ratio makes the rare chunks of meat that much more pleasurable. When first developing this recipe, I assumed that this wouldn’t be one of my favorites from the book; I was totally wrong.

Dimlama – Turkic Harvest Stew (Gluten-free, Paleo, Primal, Perfect Health Diet)

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy

2 lbs boneless lamb shoulder or beef chuck roast, cut into 2” pieces
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
2 tbsp ghee (or 1 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp avocado or olive oil)
1 ½ tsp cumin seeds
1 onion, quartered
1 lb yukon gold potatoes, about 2” in diameter, peeled
3 large carrots (about ½ lb), peeled and cut into large chunks
1 whole head garlic, outer skins removed (all but skins around individual cloves)
2 sprigs dill, more to garnish
2 roma tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 small head cabbage (about 1 lb), outer leaves removed and reserved, cut into 2” pieces

1. Combine the meat, salt, and pepper.  Warm the ghee in a dutch oven or stockpot over medium-high heat, then add the meat and brown until darkened and crispy, about 3 minutes per side, in batches as needed to prevent overcrowding; set the lamb aside as it finishes browning.

2. Reduce heat to medium, then add the cumin seeds.  Sauté until aromatic, about 30 seconds, then return the meat and any accumulated juices to the pot.  In layers, add the onion, potatoes, carrots, dill, garlic, tomatoes, and cabbage chunks, then cover everything with the reserved outer cabbage leaves.  Once you hear sounds of bubbling, cover the dutch oven and reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until the cabbage is tender throughout, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

3. Remove the dutch oven from heat, then discard the outer cabbage leaves and carefully transfer each layer onto a platter; loosely cover with aluminum foil and set aside.  Increase the heat to medium-high and reduce any leftover liquid until it is mostly oil, about 5 minutes. Distribute the meat and vegetables into four bowls, then pour the sauce over each bowl.  Serve garnished with dill.

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