Goulash or Gulyás, is Hungarian and means 'Herdsmen', referring to the cattle drivers on the Puszta, who used to cook this dish. It can be traced as far back as the Mongolians who are said to have brought this dish to the Carpathian region in the 10th century.
Today, this dish is cooked in many countries all over the world and in many varieties. If you order Goulash in Hungary, you are likely to be served the original Gulyásleves and probably heading for disappointment as this is more of a veal, potatoe and vegetable soup rather than the beef stew that is served outside Hungary.
Marhapörkölt is the Hungarian dish that comes closest to what is understood to be Goulash in other countries. I really like to stick to the original recipes as much as possible. But with all the different dishes like Pörkölt, Gulyásleves, bográcsgulyás (Kettle Goulash), Lecsó, Paprikás and so on, there seem to be as many varieties of this dish as there are Hungarian cooks. Hence I am comfortable with adding one of my own: Limburgian Goulash.
2 kg Beef (shank, shin, or shoulder),
4 large onions,
2 red bell peppers,
200gr of concentrated tomato puree,
4 cloves of garlic,
1 tbsp of caraway seeds,
2 tbsp of paprika,
2 bay leaves (not shown in picture),
2 large or 4 small potatoes
2 tbsp of red win vinegar
salt and pepper
and the secret ingredient: 1 30cl bottle of ‘Oud Bruin’ – Limburgian dark beer.
The ingredient that makes or breaks this dish, apart from the beef, is the paprika. Real Hungarian paprika cannot be found in The Netherlands. Compared to the real thing, the stuff they sell in stores over here, is more like red dust. So we need to improvise to get close to the rich, smokey, sweet taste of the authentic Hungarian Paprika!
Paprika or Pepper?In many European languages, but not in English, the word paprika commonly refers to certain varieties of the Capsicum fruit itself. The spice, made from the ground dried fruits is called paprika powder. In English paprika only refers to the spice and the fruits are called bell peppers or chili peppers.
It's all quite confusing, but as I want to keep this blog as international as possible, I will use the English terms: paprika for the spice and pepper for the fruit.
In Hungary, they will always use lard or pork fat to do this. I’m using some mild olive oil in a stainless steel pan here. The trick is to spread the meat in the pan evenly and NOT touch it until it has firmly browned. If you try and move the meat too soon, it will stick to the bottom of the pan and you’ll make a mess!
If it works well, you’ll get this: nicely browned cubes of meat and nothing sticking to the bottom of your pan.
Transfer the meat to a heavy casserole and continue frying small batches in the separate pan until all your meat is brown.
Note there is hardly any liquid in the pan coming from the meat at all. All the juices are kept where we want them!
Peel and medium dice your onions. Important is to have the correct ratio between onions and meat. You should be looking for the same volume in diced onion as you have meat. Note: this is not the same weight. Here, there is approx 1.2 kg of onions against 2 kg of meat.
Not shown in the picture: peel and dice your potatoes into small cubes 1 by 1 cm. I’m adding potatoes at this point to bind the Goulash, as there is no other thickening agent like flour or starch used.
Then dice the garlic and add to the pan. Never use a garlic press. It will give you twice the smell and half the flavor. So throw away your garlic press if you have one J.
Add the bay leaves. Use the fresh ones if you can get them.
I’ve seen these roasted in a grill, baked, wrapped in aluminum foil in an oven or held over open flame on the stove. Downside of all these methods is that they are all quite messy and not only the skin is charred, but the meat of the peppers is cooked and turned into mush.
My trick is to go medieval on them with a skewer and a blow torch
(thanks Marsellus Wallace!).
Take out the core and seeds and dice into very fine cubes.
The error many people make, is to add the paprika too early and cook it for too long, which destroys the flavor. Unlike flour or curry powder, paprika does not need to cook. That is why the quality of the paprika is so important. If you buy paprika, please make sure it smells and tastes really nice. It should never taste bitter and should be bright red in color.
Add pepper and salt to taste, but be careful with the salt. Goulash should be sweet and tangy, but never too salty.
Traditionally, Pörkölt is served with nokedlivel (spaetzle), a wonderful intermediate between noodles and dumplings and a dish by itself. I will post this recipe later on.
And there it is! A rich, velvety beef stew. Soft, succulent meat. Lovely sweetness and tanginess from the paprika and tomatoes, with a hint of smokiness from the roasted peppers and malty sweetness from the beer. There is nothing that tastes quite like it!
I like my Limburgian Goulash with white rice and some pickled gherkin, which helps to cut through the richness of the Goulash.