When I was a child, I thought I hated goulash. Part of the reason was that goulashes made me think of galoshes so how tasty could they be? The other reason was that I had never tasted an authentic goulash. You see in America, more often than not, goulash consists of ground beef, elbow macaroni, a box of lasagne flavored Hamburger Helper, and is then topped with the blandest of bright orange cheese. From sea to shining sea, it is a dish that screams church potluck.
These days I know the truth about goulash. 1) It is insanely delicious. 2) It is not even vaguely Italian. 3) Paprika makes the dish, both the sweet and the spicy smoked stuff. 4) Its origins trace back to the 9th century stews of Hungarian herdsmen.
After several trips to the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, my favorite of all the defunct empires, I have have learned to cook a pretty mean goulash. And after a quick jaunt to Budapest last September, I am now stocked up to the hilt with hot paprika (and little wooly toys like Teddy Goulash that my daughter begged for at the Great Market Hall).
Whenever I use my paprika, I can’t help but think of that scene in “Love in the Afternoon” where Gary Cooper has a Romany orchestra play “Hot Paprika” over and over while he tries to extinguish the flames of jealousy. Below is my goulash recipe. I hope it’s one you enjoy over and over, especially when it’s galoshes weather (but also when it’s not).
1 kg stewing steak, generously seasoned with salt and pepper
4 bell peppers, cut into pieces the same size as your beef (I like to use a combination of colors, but do what you like. Traditional goulash doesn’t call for them at all. They’re only a modern addition.)
4 medium sized onions, peeled and quartered
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp spicy smoked paprika
1 400g can of diced tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
500ml beef stock + 1 cup of water
3 bay leaves
vegetable oil, salt, pepper
Preheat the oven to Gas3/170°C/325°F.
In a large ovenproof pot, heat a tablespoon or two of oil. Add the stewing steak and cook on high until brown all over but not cooked through.
Add the onions and cook until soft.
Stir in the garlic.
Add both paprikas, the stock, the water, the tomatoes, the tomato paste, and the bay leaves. Bring to a simmer.
Cover the pot with a lid and transfer it to the oven. Let it cook undisturbed for an hour and a half.
Remove the pot from the oven and stir in the bell peppers. Place the pot back in the oven for another hour and a half. After this time, it will be ready to eat.
While the goulash is delicious by itself, I like to serve it with spaetzle or egg noodles. I also like to add sour cream and parsley.