• 1 eggplant, cubed
  • 100 g green beans
  • 1 cup green peas
  • 100 g okra pods
  • 2-3 potatoes, cubed
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 2-3 red or green peppers (or cubanelle peppers), cubed
  • 2 tomatoes, cubed
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • black pepper, to taste
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a few allspice berries
  • 1 cup water

Giuvech is the name given to a variety of stews prepared in Eastern European cuisines that resemble a lot French ratatouille. In Bulgaria, it can be solely vegetarian or you can add any type of cubed meat to the stew. Here is the base, an easy and delicious vegetable stew that can be prepared with a variety of in-season vegetables to your taste. What is typical and essential is the eggplant and tomato combination, as well as the okra pods and the allspice berries bringing an oriental touch to this Balkan dish.

Some people like to gently stir fry the vegetables before baking them in the oven. If you try it, you can use a frying pan that is oven-safe, in order to keep all the juices. In Bulgarian, giuvech is also the name of a traditional heat-resistant terracotta dish with a cover used to bake these mixed stews. If you choose to use such a clay dish for baking, or a Berber tajine pot, remember to reduce considerably the amount of water as it can’t evaporate properly through the cover.

Directions

  1. Sprinkle the eggplant cubes with a pinch of salt and leave them aside to drain out the moisture and reduce their bitterness, for about 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, if the green beans, the green peas and the okra pods are not from a can, you can blanch them or boil them gently in some hot water, to make them tender but not mushy. Let them cool.
  3. Rinse the eggplants from the salt and pat dry with a paper towel.
  4. Pour the oil at the bottom of a large baking dish. Add the onions, the garlic and all the vegetables, sprinkle on the spices and mix it all well together.
  5. Add a cup of water, or more if needed, so to cover about 2/3 of the vegetables in the baking dish.
  6. Preheat the oven at about 180°C (355°F). Bake for about 1 hour. The water should be evaporated and the vegetables should be golden brown on the top.

Serve this giuvech warm as a main dish, accompanied simply by a piece of crusty bread, or as a side dish to a piece of meat. In the hot summer months, you can serve it room temperature with a side of tarator and a few fresh garlic cloves to bite into.