27 February, 2007

February recipe: Goulash

One of the great compensations of the cold, damp, dark days of winter is that you get to eat comfort food, like dumplings. I have no idea whether dumplings have a long history, but they are so simple and filling that they ought to have been a staple of peasant cookery since the dawn of time, or at least since milled flour became widely available. I make no claims at all for the authenticity of the goulash recipe. I suspect that in this form it can’t go very far back, since paprika, tomatoes and green peppers don’t sound like the sort of thing that would have been widely available on the plains of Hungary until fairly recently, but successful traditional dishes tend to adapt to new ingredients. I can certainly recommend it as a simple, satisfying meal on a dank winter day. It also brings back happy memories of a popular climbers’ and hikers’ pub in Keswick in the English Lake District, whose home-made goulash with dumplings and garlic bread is a splendid end to a day on the local hill, Skiddaw.

The recipe serves four, and can be made in quantity and frozen. I happen not to like sour cream with it, but if you do, go right ahead. I generally use a cheap cut of beef, like shin or skirt, which suits the long slow cooking. When time is short, I make it with good pork sausages, in which case you add the potatoes along with the other vegetables and the cooking time is 30-40 minutes instead of two hours. It should also work with other cuts of beef, or with lamb or mutton, if you prefer. You can vary the vegetables according to taste and availability, and the quantity according to appetite.

Goulash (serves 4)

For the goulash:
1 lb (approx 500 g) shin beef, skirt of beef, stewing steak or other cut of your choice
1 large onion (about 6-8 oz, or about 150-250 g)
12 oz (about 350 g) parsnips or carrots
1 green pepper
2 cloves of garlic
2 sticks of celery, if liked (if you don’t like celery, replace with more carrot or parsnip)
4 tsp (4 x 5 ml spoon) paprika
Half a tin of chopped tomatoes in tomato juice (approx 6 oz or 150 g)
1 tsp (1 x 5ml spoon) demerara sugar
1 tsp (1 x 5 ml spoon) dried oregano, or dried mixed herbs if preferred
8 oz (approx 250 g) potatoes

For the dumplings:
4 oz (approx 120 g) self-raising flour
2 oz (approx 60 g) shredded suet
1 tsp (1 x 5 ml spoon) dried sage

Cut the beef into pieces about 1 inch (about 2 cm) square, if it isn’t already diced.
Peel and chop the onion.
Peel and slice the parsnips/carrots
Remove the seeds from the green pepper and chop.
Slice the celery if using.
Peel and crush or finely chop the garlic.
Heat butter or cooking oil in a large heavy-based saucepan, and fry the meat cubes until browned.
Add the chopped onion, carrots/parsnips, pepper, celery (if using) and garlic. Fry until browned.
Reduce the heat and stir in the paprika, then add the tomatoes, sugar and oregano.
Pour in about half a pint (about 250 ml) of water. Season with salt and black pepper, then cover the pan and bring to the boil
Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and simmer for around two hours, stirring from time to time and adding more water if it begins to boil dry. (Don’t attempt to cook it over a higher heat for a shorter time – I’ve tried and it doesn’t work very well)
Mix the flour, suet and dried sage in a small bowl, season with salt and black pepper, and mix to a firm dough with a small amount of water. Shape into 8 dumplings.
Peel the potatoes and cut into dice about 1 inch (about 2 cm) square. Add the potatoes to the beef stew and stir well.
Put the dumplings on top so they are half submerged in the stew, and simmer for another 20-30 minutes. The dumplings get half-boiled and half-steamed and will swell to about twice their original volume as they cook.
Serve with bread, noodles or spaghetti, with a spoonful of sour cream if liked.


Bernita said...

Sounds delicious and stick-to-your ribs.

elena maria vidal said...

Sounds excellent. I have not had goulash since I was in Austria. Can't wait to try your recipe! Thanks!

Constance Brewer said...

goulash has dumplings? Well, bread me with flour and fry me up! I did not know this. *g*

I made potato-leek-cheese-ham soup this weekend, does that count?

Carla said...

Bernita - good description. It's a favourite winter dish of mine.

Elena - Hope you enjoy it! That's an interesting comment about Austria - I always think of goulash as a Hungarian dish, but now you mention it, on my one visit to Austria every Gasthof seemed to have goulash soup on the menu. I wonder if that's because of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire connection?

Constance - Well, goulash has dumplings in my kitchen :-) I've no idea if it's supposed to. Like I said, I make no claims to authenticity whatsoever. But I do like dumplings, and they go well in this recipe.
I make a soup with bacon, leek, potato and barley that sounds similar to yours - what do you do with the cheese?

Constance Brewer said...

I love anything with barley. I must be a throwback to my Roman ancestors. :)

I just drop sharp chedder in the soup to jazz it up a bit. Or grated parmesan if I want a different take. Come to think of it, I use grated parmesan in a lot of my soups and stews...

Oh, and thank you for doing the equivalents for the metric measurements. I used to be able to do metric when I lived in Italy, but its been a while and I don't trust my conversion instincts. *g*

Carla said...

I'm very fond of pearl barley too, and adding barley to soup and stews probably is an echo of dishes like pottage. I use Cheddar cheese melted on top of bread on onion soup, but rarely in other soups - maybe I ought to give it a try.
Glad you find the metric conversions useful. I can manage with either imperial or metric weights, but I've never understood American cups!

Constance Brewer said...

I make an Italian bread soup that has cheese in it, one of my favorites.
Metric measurement is easer to understand, but American recipies are hard to convert sometimes, I don't know why. Or maybe its just that I am just a 'wing-it' type of cook and use measurements as suggestions rather than have-tos. *g*

Carla said...

Experienced cooks mostly use recipes as a starting point, I think, whereas when I was starting out I used to follow recipes to the letter because I hadn't learned what had to be accurate and what didn't. Now I tend to measure for cakes, biscuits, bread, etc, where getting the proportions wrong can lead to disaster, but for casseroles there's usually a lot of leeway.

Kathryn Warner said...

Pearl barley.....yum...
Goulash, casserole, soup...yum...

*Leaves Carla's blog and heads for kitchen* :-)

Carla said...

Alianore - hope your foray into the kitchen goes well!

Kathryn Warner said...

Yup - I found some of my fiancé's aubergine bake in the fridge, which just hit the spot! :) Still have a hankering for something with pearl barley in it, though...

Carla said...

Aubergines at this time of year? Ah, the wonders of modern technology :-)

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