Hungary for dinner: Gulyás (Goulash)

We’ve known for a while that Hungarian food was soon to be on our agenda, and we’ve known for a while that for us at least, Hungary means goulash. One slight problem was that it’s summer, and goulash is definitely more of a wintry dish. Fortunately, this is England, and if you are patient enough, a grey, wet, miserable, perfect-for-stew day is always just around the corner. We had one such day on Saturday, meaning that an afternoon spent inside, completing the stages of our goulash dinner, was exactly right. It’s now Monday, and we’ve just eaten the leftovers whilst hiding away from another torrential downpour. At least the British weather is good for something.

The word goulash is actually the anglicised version of the Hungarian word gulyás, which translates to ‘herdsmen’, so named because herdsmen would usually prepare it whilst driving their huge herds of cattle to international markets. It is one of those dishes where every Hungarian’s grandmother knows how to make the ‘correct’ version but no two grandmothers actually agree. One point of agreement, though, is that the sauce shouldn’t be too thick: this is more of a soup than a stew. It must contain meat; it must contain paprika; it must contain onion. Beyond that, instructions on exactly what vegetables, or exactly which spices, differ from recipe to recipe. We looked at a few, then created our own by combining the components of many recipes in one pot, including csipetke, or pinched noodles, which are similar to the German spätzle we’ve made before.

Gulyás with csipetke

For the gulyás:
1kg stewing steak, cut into 2x2cm cubes (slightly smaller than what you would normally do for a stew)
3 tbsp oil
3 medium onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 large carrots, sliced
2 large parsnips, sliced
3 tomatoes, chopped
3 peppers (red and yellow), sliced
2 large potatoes, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup sweet paprika
2 tsp ground caraway seed
2 tsp dried marjoram
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
For the csipetke:
2 small eggs
Plain flour

1. Heat the oil in a large pot and sauté the onions until golden brown.
2. Take the pot off the heat and add the paprika, stirring it into the onions.
3. Add the beef cubes and brown them, letting them simmer in their own juice.
4. Add the garlic, caraway seeds, marjoram, salt and pepper and bay leaves, then enough water to cover the contents of the pan and let it simmer on a low heat for about an hour and a half.
5. Add the carrots, parsnips and potatoes, as well as more water if required and simmer for another half hour or so (until the vegetables are almost done).
6. Add the tomato and peppers, and continue to cook for another few minutes, then bring to the boil.
7. Meanwhile, make the csipetke dough: beat the eggs and add as much flour as you need to knead a stiff dough. Flatten the dough between your palms (to about 1cm thick) and pinch small, bean-sized pieces from it. Add the csipetke to the boiling soup and cook for about 5 minutes (they are ready when they float to the surface).
8. Serve with sour cream and crusty bread if desired.
Serves 8.


Adding the csipetke

Goulash with sour cream

It looks pretty rustic, and maybe we should have cleaned the plate before taking the photo, but I’m sure they didn’t bother in 19th century Hungary!

In hindsight, we’d probably tone down the amount of caraway and tone up the amount of paprika, although the flavour combination as it was was perfectly pleasant. This probably goes very nicely with a glass of red wine, although we teamed it with Prosecco and had no complaints!

Please excuse our absence from the blogging world for the next few weeks: we are leaving this stew-worthy summer behind and going to find a better version of it somewhere else (i.e. the southern hemisphere, where it’s actually winter). We’ll cook something deliciously Slovenian on our return!

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