Tavva. My Ultimate Comfort Food.
Tavva is the definition of hearty village food. The Cypriot village where my maternal grandmother was born (Lefkara) is renowned for this dish in particular. The dish itself is very basic and that’s its beauty. A one pot wonder, it’s simply lamb, potato, tomato and a healthy injection of cumin. However what makes this dish unique in my grandma’s village is that the villagers there prepare Tavva with rice as well.
Tavva is one of those dishes that I’ve grown up with and learnt to adore because it spells homemade food, that very thing I celebrate. I always have time to listen to my grandparents’ stories of what they ate when growing up in the villages, and I find myself salivating at the thought of leaving a dish like this to take on incredible flavour in the clay ovens that all villagers used back then.
If you don’t like cumin, then this dish is not for you…I’ll be honest. But if you’ve come to my site (thanks by the way) knowing what my blog and quest is all about, then I do believe that Tavva is just what you're looking for. It’s a simple dish to prepare but requires a bit of love. I think it’s best served for Sunday lunch with a fresh salad, bread and dips. Give it a go and let me know what you think.
The beauty is within the 1 pot, so if you have a casserole dish for the hob and oven then now’s the time to use it.
Cumin seeds – 1 heaped tablespoon
Stock – ask your butcher for the lamb bones. Otherwise 2 lamb stock cubes
Onions – 2
Lamb – 800g diced shoulder (British)
Boiling water – 1 litre
Lamb Stock Cube - 1 (optional)
Chopped tomatoes – 1 tin
Tomato purée – 3 teaspoons
Rice – 500g long grain
Salt & Pepper
Potatoes -2 medium OR 1 large
Cinnamon – for dusting
Rice - wash and leave to dry for later
Cumin Seeds - toast dry in your pot until lightly toasted and then grind in a pestle & mortar
Lamb Stock - (if using lamb bones for your stock), fry in the pot with a good glug of olive oil
Onions – dice and fry on a medium/low heat with the stock bones to sweat
Ground Cumin – add to the onions and fry, stirring occasionally
Lamb – add to the onions & cumin. Leave to cook for the meat to brown slightly, stirring occasionally
Water – add to the dish once the meat has lightly browned. (You can dissolve a stock cube of your choice with the liquid for added flavour)
Leave these ingredients to infuse on a low heat for approx. 30 mins with the lid partially open. This is slow cooking so you don’t want it boiling and there is no need to stir
After this time heat the oven to 180°C
Potatoes – peel and slice into thin, whole layers
Stock Bones - remove from the pot
Chopped Tomatoes, Tomato Purée & Rice– add to the dish and season plenty with Salt & Pepper. Mix well
Remove the pot from the heat and layer the potato slices on top, pushing them into the stock liquid
Cinnamon - lightly dust over the potatoes
Add the dish (covered with a lid or foil) to the oven for 50 mins
After 50 mins:
Remove lid/foil and make sure all the liquid has absorbed. (If it hasn’t, leave in the oven for longer)
Turn the grill on at the same temperature and place the uncovered dish back in for a couple of minutes to brown the potatoes
Leave the Tavva to rest, uncovered, for about 30 mins before tucking in