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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This recipe is one of my favourites from the archives... it was among the first few recipes that appeared on Good Things. I thought it was time to share it more widely. Tell me dear readers, have you ever eaten goulash cooked in the traditional Magyar way? Perhaps you have travelled to Hungary? Share your stories here... I'd love to hear from you!
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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- Liz Posmyk
NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.