Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kartolên Pîvazan (Kurdish Potato-Onion Sauté)

 I was thinking. If I had named this blog ‘Mother’s Hidden Recipes!’ or better yet, ‘Flavors From My Aunt’s Village’, I would have had a much easier time of things. Okay, so you’re asking why my job is so difficult? These recipes come with actual birth pains. This is the image that always looms before my eyes--my sister Zelal or cousin Ebru invites some friends over for dinner and has prepared a Kurdish meal. They’ve gotten the recipes from my website, ‘Just to be sure’ they think. And so I must spend my time readying these recipes, splitting the atom, so that they may set that table with pride. On a different note, I’ve decided that, as a ‘director’, I am rather frightening, one of those types infamous for her foul temper, who spews terror and strife until she gets just what she wants….

For today’s recipe, we’ve had to cross through many hidden perils, but finally the photo shoot went without a hitch. The hands in the photographs belong to my dear Jeff, with whom I joined my life some 8.5 months ago. He remained relatively calm and forbearing through all my capricious demands (despite wielding the knife!) and witnessed me trying to rip my hair out by the roots as I tried to take those last uncooperative pictures of the finished project, finally snatching the camera out of my hand and in one frame taking the very picture that you see displayed above.

Yes, after so much struggle, after wearing my fingers down to the bone, you deserve a recipe worthy of the effort. The evening before the shoot, our dear friends Ekrem and his wife Yasemin (the plate in the picture is a present from them) came over for a dinner of black bean burritos and we had two tortillas left over.  When the photo shoot was finally over, I put some melted cheese over the potatoes, rolled them up in the leftover tortilla and we downed two rather tasty wraps. Then, we hit the road looking for some of those spring flowers and colors now popping up everywhere outside that we had forgotten about after the long winter. 

5 medium sized potatoes (1 kg/2 lbs.)
1 large onion (1/3 pound, 200 g)
2 chunks of thinly sliced kavurma, matchbox sized (50 g)*
4 tablespoons vegetable oil (50 g)
1 tablepoon tomato paste or red pepper paste (40 g)
1 ½ teaspoon salt (put the ½  into water for the potatoes)
½ tablespoon butter
2 ½ cups water (600 ml)

1.     Wash and peel the potatoes. Cut them into quarters and put them in a pot. Pour the water over them, add half a teaspoon salt and boil for 25-30 minutes. With a fork, check to see if the middle is cooked through. Once done, drain and set aside to cool.
2.     Peel the onion and slice thinly. In a wide pot, heat the oil and add the onions, cooking for about five minutes until they are transparent.
3.     Add the tomato paste and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
4.     Add the kavurma into the onion/tomato paste mixture and stir fry for another 2 minutes. Add the salt and butter.
5.     Chop the warm potatoes into cubes and stir gently into the onion-tomato paste mixture and continue to cook. Do not mix too much. Lift gently from the bottom of the pot to the top, taking care not to break or crush the potato cubes.
This is the original recipe but if you would like, you can add a little cumin or red pepper, or, like we did, top it with cheese before you serve, or add to a tortilla for a delicious wrap. It makes the perfect accompaniment to a cup of hot tea.

Bon appetite and noşi can be!

*kavurma is a dried beef cured with salt that we used for meat during the long winters in the village. (It is not the Turkish dish of the same name) It has a very rich flavor, and when cooked has the texture of pulled pork or beef hash. Substitutes outside of Turkey might include bacon (though it isn’t kosher!), or any beef hash. Or you can leave it out altogether.


  1. I was talking with people at work and the consenus was that brisket (well cooked) might be a good substitute for kavurma. The kind of brisket meat you would use for real Sloppy Joes. This stuff is good without kavurma but GREAT with it.

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  4. nice blog , I like it, your blog was added to the top kurdish blogs in Roj Bash Kurdistan website

  5. Yarın bu pişiriceğim. Lezzetli görünuyor!

    1. /Users/michael.goertzen/Desktop/Photo on 2013-03-10 at 20.08.jpg

      My version. Very tasty! Many thanks.

  6. There was supposed to be a picture.

  7. Bidome heval. Ez tê dişopînim.

  8. Good afternoon,
    My name is Martha Theodosioou and I am an Intern-Project Assistant at the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO). I am writing to in order to ask you for your support with a project our organization is developing.
    UNPO is a membership organization. Our members are unrecognized nations, minorities and indigenous peoples around the world. Because the current situation of many of our members is not well publicized in the media, we are developing several projects to promote their cause. One of them is a Cook Book, in which we hope to gather traditional recipes from the regions our members (former and current) come from.
    Georgia was a member of the UNPO until July 2015. We would like to include a typical recipe in our book. We are thinking of Kartolên Pîvazan, as we found out that this is a very popular dish among Iraqi Kurdish people. We would like to ask for your opinion, whether you agree or you have another suggestion. In addition, being a small organization and running on a very low budget, we are not in the position to hire a professional photographer to take the pictures for us, which is why we are looking for photographers who would be willing to cede us the right to use their photos in our book. For this reason, you are kindly requested to provide us with a recipe picture that you are authorized to use. We would certainly make sure you get proper accreditation for your picture.

    Please let us know what you think by replying to my UNPO email address:

    If you would like to find out more about our organization, you can visit our website at: or our facebook page:

    Thank you very much for your support!
    Kind regards,
    Martha Theodosiou.

  9. OMG! This Kurdish potato-onion sauté is looking so tasty. Thank you for sharing it here. It reminded me of my friend’s party where she had made a tasty potato dish. It was really delicious, and she had learned that recipe from Nom Live Video App. Will also use these videos.