We – my siblings, cousins on my father’s side of the family, and I – grew up on authentic Hungarian Goulash. It was one of those dishes that grandma made that we gobbled up, with chunks of hot salt bread–and also, admittedly, one we all took for granted.
Over the years, since starting to collect cookbooks in 1965, I have discovered that people will label almost any kind of stew “goulash” – maybe because it has a foreign ring to it. I am here to tell you, not all goulashes are alike and not all stews are authentic goulashes. And while there appears to be considerable flexibility in what you put into the pot along with meat, onion, and vegetables–if it doesn’t contain Hungarian paprika, it isn’t Goulash.
As a matter of fact, it was Hungarian Goulash that set me on my cookbook collecting quest. In 1965, one of the wives of the Hungarian men in our circle told me she wanted to find a little recipe booklet about Hungarian cuisine, published by Culinary Arts Institute.
“I know how to find it!” I exclaimed. “There is a little magazine, called Women’s Circle (not to be confused with Family Circle or Woman’s Day) – that publishes letters written by women–requests for penpals, requests for certain books or other items. I’ll write a letter and see if we can buy your Hungarian cookbooklet”. I wrote the letter and as an after thought, added that I was interested in starting a collection of cookbooks and would buy or trade for them. I received nearly 300 replies. Peggy got a copy of the Hungarian cookbooklet, and so did I – for about $1 each – and I embarked on a year long odyssey of buying cookbooks from women all over the USA. My collection was born.
Authentic gulyás (Goulash) is a beef dish cooked with onions, Hungarian Paprika, tomatoes, and some green pepper. Potato and/or noodles (csipetke in Hungarian) may also be added according to some recipes. Authentic Hungarian Goulash is Hungary’s national dish and is probably the most famous of all Hungarian meat dishes. Its origin can be traced back, over a thousand years ago, to the Magyar migration across the Great Plains. The origin of the word “gulyas” meant cowherd or cowboy. The men and boys gathered around an open fire under an open sky in the evening and created a meal with meat and vegetables in large kettles suspended over the campfires. The soup was referred to, in Hungary, as “gulyasleves” meaning cowboy soup. Another interesting fact is that the use of paprika was introduced to Hungarian kitchens during the years of Turkish rule and was first referred to as “Torok bors” meaning Turkish pepper. It was only in the 18th century that the name paprika was used.
Hungarian goulash is neither a soup nor a stew, it’s somewhere in between. However, in Hungary it’s considered more of a soup than a stew, so look for it among Soups on restaurant menus.
When cooked properly, goulash will have a nice and evenly thick consistency, almost like a sauce. In Hungary gulyás is eaten as a main dish. Even in Hungary, most housewives and chefs have their own way of cooking it, by adding or omitting some of the ingredients, or changing something in the preparation process; however they would all say their gulyás is authentic.
This first recipe is an adaptation from one I found on the Budapest Tourist Guide website (http://www.budapest-tourist-guide.com/hungarian-goulash.
To make Hungarian Goulash you will need:
- 1-2 pounds of chuck, or any tender cut of beef cut into small cubes
- 2 tablespoons oil or lard
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1-2 carrots, diced
- 1 parsnip, diced (*I consider this optional. Grandma’s goulash never had parsnip in it)
- 1-2 celery leaves
- 2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or 1 TBSP tomato paste
- 2 fresh green peppers (sweet bell peppers, not hot peppers)
- 2-3 medium potatoes, sliced
- 1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika powder*
- 1 teaspoon ground caraway seed
- 1 bay leaf
- ground black pepper and salt according to taste
- Heat up the oil or lard in a pot and braise the chopped onions until they are a nice golden brown color.
- Sprinkle the braised onions with paprika powder while stirring, to prevent the paprika from burning.
- Add the beef cubes and sauté until they turn white and get a bit of brownish color as well. The meat will probably let out its own juice. Allow the beef-cubes simmer in it while adding the grated or crushed and chopped garlic (grated garlic has stronger flavor), the ground caraway seed, some salt and ground black pepper, and the bay leaf. Pour water enough to cover the contents of the pan and let it simmer on low heat for a while.
- When the meat is half-cooked (approximately 1 1/2 hour, but it can take longer depending on the type and quality of the beef) add the diced carrots, parsnip and the potatoes, the celery leaf and additional salt if necessary. Taste and then adjust seasonings. You may have to add additional (2-3 cups) water too.
- When the vegetables and the meat are almost done add the tomato cubes and the sliced green peppers. Let it cook on low heat for another few minutes. You can remove the lid of the pan if you want the soup to thicken.
- Bring the soup to a boil and add (if you are including it) the csipetke dough; allow about 5 minutes for it to cook.
Csipetke (Pinched noodles added to goulash or bean soup in Hungary) comes from the word csípni, meaning pinch in English, referring to the way of making this noodle. Goulash is hearty enough without csipetke, especially if you eat it with bread, so you can skip making csipetke. (I believe that csipetke is the similar to my grandmother’s rivels). We didn’t have Rivels, or Csipetke with Goulash; however, the tiny dumplings were always included in Grandma’s home made chicken soup.
FOR CSIPETKE .
You will need:
- 1 small egg,
- a pinch of salt,
- 1 teaspoon water
To make the tiny dumplings, beat up a small egg, add a pinch of salt and as much flour as needed to make a stiff dough (you can add some water if necessary). Flatten the dough between your palms (to about 1 cm thick) and pinch small, bean-sized pieces from it and add them to the boiling soup. They need about 5 minutes to cook.
*One final word about paprika – don’t even bother with commercial American-made paprika. It won’t be the same as authentic Hungarian paprika, which I have been finding more and more frequently in major supermarkets. Look for a red and white and green tin labeled “Pride of Szeged Hungarian Hot Paprika”. The last paprika I purchased was from World Market and a 5 ounce in was only $3.19.
The following recipe is my Aunt Annie’s Hungarian Goulash – and I am assuming, since she was the daughter of my paternal grandmother, that this was the way Grandma made Hungarian Goulash also:
To make Aunt Annie’s Hungarian Goulash you will need:
- 2 lbs cubed beef
- 1 large onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 carrots
- 2 large potatoes
- 1 cup tomato juice
- 1 cup beef broth or 1 cup water & 1 bouillon cube
- 2 tsp dried parsley flakes
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 ½ tsp salt
Brown beef, add chopped onion, garlic, paprika, salt & parsley. Then add juice and broth. Simmer 1 hour. Add sliced carrots. Simmer ½ hour. Add diced potatoes. Simmer 1 hour.
Happy Cooking! -Sandy