Recipe For Turkish-style Lamb 'Kavurma'

'Kavurma' is lamb slow cooked in its own juices until it melts in your mouth.
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  • 3 hrs 10 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins,
  • Cook: 3 hrs
  • Yield: Serves 4-6
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A Favorite During 'Kurban Bayramı' You Can Enjoy All Year Round

The Festival of Eid el-Adha, better known in Turkish as ‘Kurban Bayramı’ (koor-BAHN’ buy-RAHM’-uh), or the ‘sacrifice festival,’ is a great time to enjoy traditional Turkish home cooking at its best. As this time of year is a festival of sacrifice, menus are built around the main attraction. The sacrificial meat.

The most common meats are lamb and beef. Once the animal is put down according to Islamic tradition, the meat and hide are carved up for consumption by the family with the extra donated to charity to feed the hungry.

In a country where many families can rarely afford to eat meat, the distribution of meat during this time is welcomed by all.

Although anything but alcohol can be consumed along with the sacrificial meat, there is on one dish that is a constant at every table. That is, the meat itself.

Whether it’s lamb or beef, the first dish to be prepared after the sacrifice is a large pot of ‘kavurma’ (kah-VOOR’-mah). ‘Kavurma’ is a simple dish, basically the meat of the animal that’s cooked in its own juices along with some salt.

Meat and fat from the animal are cubed and put directly in a covered pot to start the slow roasting process. After several hours of slow roasting, often over an open flame, the meat breaks down  and becomes as soft as cotton.

Another traditional way to prepare ‘kavurma’ is to cook it on a metal sheet called a ‘saç’ (SACHT’). The ‘saç’ is placed over an open fire and the diced lamb or beef is turned around with a large metal spatula until it releases its juices and fat. Some choose to add diced vegetables and spices to the meat, while others prefer it with only salt.

If you would like to prepare melt-in-your-mouth lamb ‘kavurma,’ follow the simple recipe below. The key is to find a tender cut of lamb and to leave the fat on. If you get the lamb from your butcher shop, ask for a handful of lamb fat or tail fat on the side and add this to the ‘kavurma’ as it cooks. The fat will help tenderize the meat and improve the flavor.   

And don't forget, you don't have wait for 'Kurban Bayramı' to make and enjoy 'kavurma.' You can eat it all year round.

What You'll Need

  • 2 to 3 pounds boneless lamb roast or boneless leg and thigh of lamb
  • ¼ pound lamb or tail fat
  • 2 teaspoons salt

How to Make It

  1.  If you are working with a leg of lamb with the bone intact, use a sharp knife to slice the meat off the bones in large chunks. Discard any unwanted parts leaving only soft meat and fat. You can save the bone to make broth later on.
  2. If you have boneless meat, it’s even easier. Cut the meat and fat into bite-sized cubes and put it all in a saucepan. Add the salt and turn through with your hands.
  3. Turn the heat on high until the bottom begins to sizzle. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to low. Leave the pan to simmer very gently for several hours. Turn the meat over occassionally with a wooden spoon.
  1. You’ll know the meat is ready when there is no liquid left except the melted fat and the meat is falling apart and has darkened in color.
  2. Serve the hot ‘kavurma’ with a side dish of rice or bulgur pilaf and other traditional Turkish dishes.