This Beef Stew with Potatoes is known as a Kavardak recipe (Кавардак). It's a delicious beef winter stew that's common across Russia and across former Soviet countries. Especially common in the Central Asian part of Russia and the surrounding regions.
Is Kavardak Russian?
No, not really, but it's a word that people search to find this recipe. Kavardak is how you call this recipe in Russian, and it's enjoyed by millions of Russians. The roots of this recipe come from Central Asia, which includes areas of Russia. It's most likely from Uzbekistan (some call it their national dish) and in Kazakhstan it's called kuyrdak. The Soviet Union had a great way of uniting different cultural foods across their giant empire.
What Does Kavardak Mean?
The word 'kavardak' in Russian means 'shambles' or 'mess', which is where this meal gets its name from. It's a mess of meat, potatoes, onions and carrots, all mixed up. Some people add tomatoes and red peppers. You really could throw anything into it. Kavardak Beef Stew is also know as Kaurdak, Kuurdak, Kuyrdak and Kavurdak. The word kuurdak came from Turkish origin, highlighting some shared common history and cultural ties with Turkey and Central Asia.
Lamb or Beef Stew with Potatoes
Kavardak is really just a classic Beef Stew with Potatoes recipe, which can also be made with lamb. Actually I think lamb is more commonly used in Central Asia. However can be harder to find in North America, and is usually more expensive that beef. That's why I made this recipe with beef, but you can buy a lamb roast, chop it up to use the exact same way.
How to Make Kavardak
This is fantastic heart warming comfort food. This reminds me of my childhood, my mom cooking Kavardak Beef Stew with fresh potatoes from our garden. You only need a few ingredients; chunky or shredded carrot pieces, red peppers and sometimes tomatoes. I don't like adding tomatoes in Kavardak, but if course, you can make it any way you prefer.
In a large stock pot, brown the beef or lamb cubes until all the water has been released. Season with salt and pepper only when the liquids have evaporated. Cut the onion in half, then slice into thin rings. Add the sliced onions to the meat and continue to fry until softened. Mix in the chunky carrots, garlic and red peppers (sweet capsicum) and cook for another 5 minutes. Finally add the chopped potatoes, beef stock and a bay leaf.
As I mentioned, I use chunky pieces of carrots or sliced in pieces. You can also chop the carrots into thin matchsticks. If using thin carrot slices, you can fry them together with the sliced onions, and after add the chopped red peppers and garlic.
If adding tomatoes, just slice them and add them into the stockpot after the red peppers. Cook the tomatoes until their juices start to evaporate in the pot. Continue with the rest of the recipe as normal. There are many ways of making this recipe, even the order you cook the ingredients can differ.
My mom was never a huge fan of the spices used in Central Asian recipes, she always only seasoned with salt and black pepper. Me on the other hand, love spices, especially the traditional ones used for Kavardak. Add 1 teaspoon of ground coriander and 1 teaspoon of cumin. Taste and adjust spices to your own personal taste! It tastes great with only salt and black pepper if you don't want to use fancy spices. Remember to garnish with chopped parsley.
Beef or Lamb Stew Recipe Tips
- Make Kavardak with lamb, for a more authentic recipe, or can also use pork
- If not using tomatoes, can mix ½ a teaspoon of tomato paste with the carrots
- Spice it up by adding ½ teaspoon of chili powder for a bit of a kick
- For a more soupier recipe, add an extra 2 cups of beef broth
- Add extra vegetables, like shredded cabbage
- Garnish with a bit of fresh cilantro instead of parsley
- Don't serve on a plate, but in a deep bowl
At the end of the day, Kavardak is a tasty Beef Stew with Potatoes, an Uzbek style, or Russian Stew style, or Kazakh style... Kavardak Beef Stew is a hearty meal that will definitely hit the spot. Bon Appetit! Приятного аппетита!
*Photos updated June 2018
Kavardak Beef Stew with Potatoes (Кавардак)
- 1 lb /500g beef or lamb cubed into 2" chunks
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 2 onions cut in half, sliced into rings
- 2 carrots sliced into chunky pieces or sliced into match sticks
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 red pepper chopped into 2" pieces
- 5 medium potatoes quartered or sliced into thick pieces
- 2 cups beef stock
- salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- In a stock pot, heat the oil and brown the beef. Cook until the water releases and cooks away (about 10 minutes). When the water has evaporated, add 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper.
- Add the onions to the meat and sauté until softened. (about 7-8 minutes)
- Mix in the carrots, garlic and red pepper to the meat mixture and sauté for about 5 minutes
- Add the potatoes, beef stock and 1 bay leaf. The water may not cover the potatoes, that is ok, this is not soup, but a stew.
- Bring to a boil, cover with a lid. Reduce and simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes are soft and cooked. Add coriander and cumin, taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
- Garnish with parsley and serve with crusty bread.