The other day I made a giant batch of my favourite stew: Hungarian Goulash.
Many of you probably don’t know what goulash is, or equate it with something not-so-classy. In America, goulash is apparently some kind of “chuck your leftovers and some ground beef in a pot” type of concoction with some macaroni thrown in for good measure. Likely served with a big side of Heinz ketchup 😉
For me, the name vaguely reminds me of the Russian word “Gulag” dancing into my head from history classes gone by. Gulag was the word for Stalin’s concentration camps in the former USSR. Hmm.
Okay, forget the name – goulash is actually delicious and awesome, and has got nothing to do with macaroni, ketchup, or forced labour. And it has a particularly special place in my heart, maybe because it’s the national dish of Hungary, and Hungary is where I met my lovely boyfriend (now husband), Luke, back in 2008.
We spent many of our first dates getting to know each other over a bowl of authentic Hungarian goulash. We also used to cook huge pots of it every week and sell it to the hungry backpackers staying in our hostel (we worked in a hostel in Budapest) to make a few extra forints (the Hungarian currency).
So what is goulash then?
While there are many recipe variants throughout Hungary and other Eastern European countries, basically it’s a hearty beef and veggie stew with the defining feature being a truck load of paprika. Hungary is famous for its paprika, and thus, this dish goes heavy on it. This is the way I make mine:
- 600 g stewing beef cut into cubes (preferably pastured beef, if possible)
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1-2 carrots, diced
- 1-2 celery stalks, diced
- 2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or 1 tbs. tomato paste
- 2 fresh green peppers, sliced
- 2-3 medium potatoes, sliced
- 1 to several tablespoons sweet paprika powder (usually the more the merrier, and I tend to pile this on without abandon)
- 1 teaspoon ground caraway seed
- 1 bay leaf
- ground black pepper and sea salt according to taste
- water (or homemade beef or chicken bone broth is best if you have some!)
- In a high edged frying pan, saute onions in a bit of cooking oil (pastured lard, tallow, ghee, or coconut oil preferably) until golden brown. Sprinkle the paprika on the browned onions while stirring, to prevent it from burning.
- Add the beef and saute until it is no longer pink and slightly browned.
- Add garlic, caraway seeds, salt, pepper, a bay leaf, and add enough water or bone broth to cover the contents. Cover with a lid and let simmer on low for an hour or two until the beef begins to get tender (the longer you cook stewing beef, the more tender it becomes).
- Once the beef tastes not-so-chewy, transfer the contents of the frying pan to a large stockpot and add all remaining vegetables (tomato, carrot, potatoes, green peppers, and celery). Although water level may be well below the level of vegetables, do not add more liquid if you want a nice, thick stew. Soon the veggies will shrink and release their own juices and there won’t be a need for added liquid.
- Cook covered on medium low heat until all vegetables are cooked through, and the beef is nice and tender. Taste it to see if it needs something extra, and if so, our remedy is usually add more paprika! (and maybe some sea salt too)
- EAT! yum. This recipe serves lots. Be prepared for leftovers.
Now because it can take so long for the beef to become tender, I will warn you that this recipe is not such a good idea to embark on when you just get home from work and you’re really hungry. I have made that mistake before! It’s a good recipe for the weekend when you can start it early in the afternoon, and then you can eat the leftovers all week.
Or, my favourite way to make this is in a crockpot. That way, you could just throw all the ingredients in the slow cooker before you go to work or school, set it on low, and have a delicious ready made stew waiting for you when you get home!