Youvetsi

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If you are a carnivore like me you certainly appreciate juicy, mouth-watering flesh. So far, I’ve written about wonderful Greek grills as well as the hearty roasts. For a meat lover choosing between a roast and a grill is most likely a win-win situation. But this post is about the best of both worlds, braising. And a very succulent recipe in particular: Youvetsi!

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Not only do we love our youvetsi, I can vouch there is hardly a Greek soul that doesn’t melt at the sound of this dish. Fragrant tomato sauce and freshly grated kefalotiri melting over orzo. Yum! It conjures up so many lovely memories of sunny Sunday lunches at grandma’s.

Youvetsi is truly versatile, it’s not just a dish, but a method that is as easy as it is comforting. You can use any meat or vegetables of your choice, which is combined with orzo pasta, or kritharaki.  I chose to go for the most traditional incarnation with beef, topside or silverside are a good option. Youvetsi is also very popular with lamb and occasionally sea-food, like this version with octopus. More recently I have seen yiouvetsi with mushrooms, peppers and carrots, but this is a modern take on a classic dish. And just another way to enjoy our orzo that we so much love.

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Now the only difficulty you might face with this dish is patience. It’s not difficult to prepare but it needs its time in the oven and is best cooked slowly. Traditionally this is done in ceramic pots, but don’t despair if you don’t have one, your normal roasting tray covered with foil will do fine and if you are lucky enough to have a slow cooker even better.

What you will need:

  • 500gr of beef cut in largish chunks
  • 300ml of tomatoes, chopped or grated ( I normally use fresh, ripe tomatoes)
  • 200gr of orzo pasta
  • 1 tbsp of tomato paste
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 100ml of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Water
  • 150gr of kefalotiri cheese or parmesan

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What to do:

Start with preheating your oven to 170oC, then turn to your hob. Chop the onion finely and soften it with some olive oil and the garlic cloves. Add the meat to brown, once you have coloured the meat evenly on all sides add a bit of warm water to half cover the ingredients in your pan and let it boil for 10-15 minutes.

Make sure that all the ingredients are at hand and your oven is warmed up. Pour everything out into the pot now: Onion, garlic, beef and its juices, olive oil, grated tomatoes and tomato paste, sugar and a little warm water to cover. It sounds very messy but will actually turn out delicious. Mix your ingredients well and cover with foil. It should take approximately one hour to an hour and a half for the meat to soften. Keep on checking after the first 50 minutes. Once you are satisfied with the softness of your  meat it’s time to add the orzo. This takes no more than 15 minutes, and you will need to be around to give it the occasional stir and perhaps add some more water if needed.

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And ta da! When the orzo is soft you are ready to serve. Top each portion with a little bit of kefalotiri or parmesan or any cheese that melts well.

from Athens with love,

Eugenia

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