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Pilaki (Turkish stew)

You know that you eat, sleep and dream food when you are constantly referring to and comparing real life events to MasterChef. And this time, I was faced with the Turkish mystery box challenge, featuring black-eyed peas and sivri peppers. Sometimes you pick a recipe and sometimes a recipe picks you!

Pilaki | www.planticize.com

It all started when I saw this enormous bunch of long, pointy, green peppers at the supermarket. They looked so good and were so inexpensive that I just grabbed them before taking a really good look at what they were. Well, actually, that’s not entirely true. I was recently discussing with a friend how, here in Sweden, many fruits and vegetables often have very vague names. That is, the supermarket simply labels them “tomatoes” and that’s it! Or maybe they’ll make a bit of an effort and call something “baking potatoes” or “risotto rice”, letting you know how it’s meant to be cooked or what kind of dish it’s meant for.

Pilaki | www.planticize.com

So the sign next to these peppers simply read “spetspaprika” which literally means pointy peppers. That’s great. I can see they are pointy, but thanks for trying. On the bag itself it  simply said “sivri”, and when upon closer inspection I could see that the country of origin was Turkey. OK, so I have some pointy green peppers from Turkey – in a bag, so I can’t really smell them or take a discreet nibble or anything. Still, I wanted ’em, so I bought ’em. I continued perusing the fresh produce department, and bought some “hard potatoes”, “onions in a bunch” and “vine tomatoes”.

Pilaki | www.planticize.com

Later at home, when I was trying to decide what to make, and had settled on some kind of vegetable stew, I saw that I had a large jar of black-eyed peas and thought that would make the perfect protein for my dish. So I had some potatoes, carrots, onions, beans and oh yeah, those crazy peppers. I went to my trusty computer, Googled green sivri pepper and learned that they are a Turkish heirloom variety that is hundreds of years old. “Now we’re getting somewhere,” I thought, “I’m going to get a really good description of what these are.”

Pilaki | www.planticize.com

I read on and learned that they have a slight sweetness and can range from mild to a very hot cayenne heat. Hang on a minute “from mild to very hot”? Hmm, so there are different varieties? I Googled on, and read this: The hotness of each pepper is inconsistent, ranging from mild to burning hot. That’s when I realized that there are secret forces at work that simply do NOT want us to know what kind of vegetable we are buying or how hot a given variety of pepper is. Many of the sivri images online were of red peppers, so I guessed that mine were younger, and milder in general. I carefully took a bite of one and then another, and sure enough, one was sweet while the next definitely had some zip to it!

Pilaki | www.planticize.com

I capitulated. I chopped and diced, sautéed and simmered, and in the end, my mystery box challenge turned out to be a very tasty pilaki or Turkish-style stew, with lots of flavor and pleasant, mostly mild heat that varied from bite to bite. I didn’t even know that’s what I was making – it was like the recipe had chosen itself. But hey, sometime you just have to go with the flow!

Pilaki with black-eyed beans and sivri peppers

Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 40 mins
Serves: 4


  • olive oil
  • 2 medium onions - diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic - minced
  • 1 lb (454 g) - potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 carrots - peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 4 green sivri peppers - deseeded (optional) and coarsely chopped
  • 1 lb (454 g) - black-eyed peas, drained
  • 4 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup (1.2 dl) - pomegranate juice*
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • ½ tsp (2.5 ml) - crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt/pepper
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped (leave some for garnish)


  1. Heat some olive oil in a large pot or deep pan, add the onions and cook for a few minutes before adding the garlic.
  2. Add the potatoes, carrots and peppers, stir and cook for about five minutes.
  3. Add the black-eyed peas and tomatoes and cook for a few minutes, allowing the tomatoes to release some liquid.
  4. Add the pomegranate and lime juice, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Cover, reduce heat, and let simmer for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes and carrots are soft.
  5. Add the water pomegranate and lime juice, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Cover, reduce heat, and let simmer for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes and carrots are soft.
  6. Uncover, remove from heat and stir in thechopped parsley.
  7. Optional: Serve with your favorite rice and some bread.

Additional Info

*As my recipe was taking shape and I learned that I was actually making a Turkish stew, I read that many "pilaki" include a bit of sugar, in order to balance the flavors. I tend to omit the sugar in recipes like this, but remembered that some Turkish recipes call for pomegranate syrup as a sweetener, and wouldn't you know that I had some pomegranate juice left in my refrigerator! Not quite the same thing, but a good compromise, and it felt like those mysterious culinary forces were once again on my side.

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