Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Hungarian Goulash

I grew up eating goulash in the mid-west. I think we knew it was Eastern European though ours in particular was more likely Polish than Hungarian in origin.

Regardless, I wanted to make a version that was more like the kind from my childhood and less like the standard American Goulash that you can find recipes for on the internet (without paprika!) The very traditional recipe calls for stew beef but Americans substituted ground beef early in it's adoption into the American lexicon. I'm ok with that.

I found the version that inspired this recipe on and thought I could make a nice tasty dish from it. I took the barest of description and ran with it:

"Authentic [goulash] is a beef dish cooked with onions, Hungarian paprika powder, tomatoes and some green pepper. Potato and noodles (csipetke in Hungarian) are also added according to some recipes. Hungarian goulash is neither a soup nor a stew, it’s somewhere in between. Though in Hungary it’s considered rather to be a soup than a stew, so look for it among Soups on restaurant menus. If cooked in the proper way goulash has a nice and evenly thick consistency, almost like a sauce. In Hungary [goulash] is eaten as a main dish..."

I really wanted to make it with macaroni instead of csipetke (as that's how I remember eating it at my Grandma's house) and since I have an extruder attachment I'm still playing around with, I was going to make the pasta element that way. While my macaroni was a total failure (it split down the center), it ended up turning out really interesting in that I think I made a pasta shape (maybe ricciutelli?) that worked really well but in the end was hardly traditional, no matter what tradition you hold.

I guess that's kind of the point in cooking.

Hungarian Goulash
(roughly from here)

1 tablespoon oil
1 large onion, diced
1 lb ground beef
2 cloves of garlic
1 (28 oz can) diced tomatoes
1 red pepper, diced (I didn't have a green pepper - it is the traditional pepper to be used here but I think the red was great, so whatever you have should work)
1 medium potato, diced
1 tablespoon Hungarian sweet paprika (plus more to taste)
1 teaspoon ground fennel seed (ground caraway seed is more traditional but I didn't have any)
ground black pepper and salt according to taste
water or beef broth or chicken broth or beer (I used all of them!)
8 oz uncooked macaroni


I went with a deep stainless soup pot to make the whole dish. If you have a really big straight-sided sauté pan, use that. Otherwise, I'd stay away from non-stick and go with a dutch oven.

Anyway, toss your table spoon of oil into your pot/pan and get the onion cooking. Always sprinkle a liberal pinch of salt over your onions. 

Let them cook until starting to brown around the edges at medium heat.

Add the tablespoon of sweet paprika and give it a good stir.

Toss in your beef and cook until no longer pink.

Add the bell pepper, ground caraway (or fennel seeds) 2 cloves of minced garlic and cook for 3 minutes, still over medium heat.

Add the 28oz can of diced tomatoes and stir well to combine.

Let this come up to a nice simmer and cook for about an hour to let everything meld together. You can let this go much longer at low heat (which is what I did).

Add some water or broth (or beer) to keep everything lubricated as the longer it cooks, the more moisture is lost. Since I let mine go for a long time (like, 4 hours) I added 1/2 a cup or so every hour.

When you're 30 minutes out from dinner, toss in the diced potatoes. Add any liquid to make sure they're covered.

(*side note - you can add other veggies here if you want - carrots, parsnip, turnip, whatever - just cook until tender)

Let it go for about 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Next, toss in your pasta. 

Since I used fresh pasta I only let mine go for a few minutes, but generally most macaroni takes 8-10 minutes to cook. Just let it go until it's done. 

Give everything a good stir, check for salt and serve!

You'll notice that cooking the pasta directly in the stew thickens it up considerably.

I found this goulash very comforting, homey and filling. The flavors were reminiscent of my childhood and the kids really liked it. It's a great dish for those cold evenings.

If you've never had it, give it a whirl!


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