It would be little wonder if Hungarian goulash had complained of an identity crisis over the years. Recognised internationally as a stew (and frequently bastardised in various ways), the famous icon of Hungary is a thick and wholesome soup named after the nomadic Magyar herdsmen or gulyás of the Great Plain.
In The Cuisine of Hungary (Penguin), George Laing explains that goulash is [one of] 'the four pillars of Hungarian cooking' and the origins can be traced back to the ninth century, when 'the ancient Magyars dipped into the gulyás with their wooden spoons'. Yeah, those guys knew how to eat with gusto!
At its best, goulash is cooked outdoors in an iron kettle or bogrács suspended over an open fire (per my cousin György's method in the photograph above). Add a generous blob of pork lard during the cooking (if you dare) and make sure you have large chunks of home-baked bread sliced and ready. Then invite a loud and ravenous family over, and finish off with Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody belting out from the ipod dock.
If you don't happen have a bogrács, which Hungarians transport to picnics much like other nationalities might do with a picnic basket or an esky, then cook your goulash in a soup pot indoors. Jó étvágyat kívánok! Enjoy.
GOULASH THE WAY MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME
1-2 tablespoons oil
2 brown onions, chopped
1kg beef shin (or stewing steak), cubed and trimmed of fat
1 tablespoon Noble Sweet Hungarian paprika
2 carrots, peeled & cut into chunks
1 green capsicum, sliced
1 tomato, chopped
1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
up to 2 litres water
3 potatoes, peeled and quartered
a few sprigs of parsley
a few caraway seeds (entirely optional)
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or stock pot and saute the onions until they are just golden. Add the beef and cook it until it is well browned. Stir in the paprika, carrot, capsicum, tomato, salt and one litre of water.
Bring the soup to the boil, the lower the heat, cover the pot and cook the goulash gently for up to two hours. At this stage, add the potatoes and parsley, and up to an additional litre or so of water (less if you prefer a less liquid Goulash). Then simmer until the potatoes are tender. Serves 6.
11/2 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons water
1 free range egg
Combine the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Knead to a firm, dry consistency. Grate directly into simmering soup or pinch off 1 cm pieces and drop into the soup. The noodles are ready when they rise to the top. Serves 6.
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Once the first frost hits during winter in Canberra, it's time to reach for the long johns and snuggly blankets, and hibernate. Steaming hot soups are back on the menu, offering fuel and comfort food. So let's gather a few of my favourite ingredients, combine them with some hand-picked herbs and home-made stock, and let them simmer away until a delicious aroma fills the kitchen.
'Gyere kislányom, a hideg meggyleves nagyon finom! (come my little girl, this cold cherry soup is really delicious!),' my mother, Irén, would say as she beckoned me to taste her freshly made, ice-cold soup. Clearly she loved it, and indeed it must have been very good. For with each spoonful she would close her eyes, form a smile, raise her shoulders towards her neck (as you do when something is immensely pleasurable), and make the 'Mmmm' sound. Actually I can still see the look of bliss on her face... it was as though this lovely lady, who had lived a much harder life than most of us could imagine, had just died and gone to heaven.
In the late 1950s my father, the gentleman barber who liked to be known as 'Andre the Great', spent a few hard earned pounds on a very fine full-length leather coat. And with the docket from that investment he managed to win for himself a little Fiat motor car that would herald the beginning of many seaside adventures.
When it comes to tomato soup, my reaction over a lifetime has been a rather ungracious 'eeeeeeiuw' (with the exception of gazpacho)... so imagine the pleasant surprise that was in store the first time I tasted this one. Little wonder its original 1970s title was 'An Exceptional Tomato Soup'! For, that it is.
Smoked Hock and Lentil Soup
Lentils have been on the menu in my family for generations. My mother always kept packs of green/brown and red lentils in the larder. She made beautiful soups with them, and a hearty lentil stew which I didn't really appreciate the flavour of until I was in my twenties. Similarly, smoked pork hock featured often on mum's Hungarian repertoire, mostly in soups, such as bean soup or lentil soup; and sometimes with cabbage rolls.
As I write this post, it's pouring with rain outside and I am reminded about walking home from school on rainy winter days. Mum never learned to drive and my father was at work, so there was no such thing as the luxury of being driven home. The only time my father picked me up from school (very occasionally) was to take me to piano lessons, which I hated at the time. I was taught by nuns and the curriculum was ever so boring. Did I really need to learn how to play 'Song of the Volga Boatmen'?! Not to mention that I didn't enjoy having my hands slapped by Mother Superior if I made a mistake during 'pianoforte' examinations! Besides, she smelled, too. But I digress.
When my twitter friend, Mel, a.k.a. Piglet from The Adventures of Miss Piggy, tweeted that she was craving French onion soup, I smiled, as I had had a similar hankering all week and had bought onions from the greengrocer that day so I could make some for Peter.
Darren Templeman, chef/owner of Restaurant Atalier, famous for modern French cuisine, also saw the tweet, so it wasn't long before Piglet and 'the Boy' visited Atalier at Glebe to enjoy a very fine bowl of Darren's French onion soup. 'It was delicious and exactly what I had been craving', Mel said later. Nothing like having your hunger pangs satisfied!
Veal Shank and Vegetable Broth
This weekend's snippet is a rustic, nourishing broth that my mother and father cooked for us kids, sometimes with a whole chicken and the giblets, instead of veal shanks. Their own parents, my grandparents on both sides, most probably cooked it for their children too. And their parents before them most likely taught the recipe to them. My son and daughter, and my sister's three children (and their children), and our partners, all refer to it as 'Nanna Soup'. Comfort food at its simplest.
A friend has an assortment of citrus trees that bear such an overwhelming amount of fruit that she feels she has exhausted all possible ideas for utilising the crop, so she asked me to come to the rescue with a few ideas.
‘THERE’S freshly-grated nutmeg in the pumpkin soup!,” my brother in law, Tonio, announced proudly while serving lunch recently. I had already detected the sweet fragrance of the nut in question and knew the soup would taste delicious. What can I tell you? Tonio is a great cook and nutmeg is a deliciously interesting spice!
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
Join me as I share with you my favourite recipes; postcards and morsels from my travels; conversations with cookery writers
and chefs; and news on food, cookbooks
- Liz Posmyk
NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.