My authentic Hungarian Goulash recipe
Well, originaly, I thought, the only recipe I wouldn’t post about on this site would be the one of a Hungarian goulash. However, then I looked around a bit on internet (before, of course I was never looking for a goulash recipe, since it’s something I’ve cooked thousend times..), have discovered a lot of different recipes with the title of an „authentic Hungarian goulash recipe” and seeing those, I told myself, oh yes, post it! And my parcel sent in the framework of the EBPP (help, where is it, it should have arrived already and no signs yet….) also contains a few ingredients and maybe my adressee is willing to try it. So without any further much ado and without going into poetry about the history of the Hungarian cuisine – which I shall do another time but I’m so lazy for right now.. (but here I found a good article if you are interested –although the author seem to have a Polish name, but still..), here we go:
Let’s start with some quick terminology: there might be some confusion about what exactly is called a goulash (although I think maybe only English speaking Hungarians may have created this confusion because for everyone else it seems to be obvious that it’s that thick meat stew.) But in theory it could cover the following Hungarian dishes:
PÖRKÖLT – a slowly cooked thick meat stew (it looks like on the picture above) which can be made of all kinds of meat: beef, chicken, pork or even fish. I consider this one as the typical Hungarian stew that is translated as a goulash in other languages. My recipe goes for this. It’s served normally with bite size dumplings (galuska), or boiled potatoes (or even sometimes with plain pasta in school or company cantines )
GULYÁSLEVES – goulash soup- you see, this one at least really contains the word goulash. This is indeed a liquid soup – the preparation starts exactly the same way as of a stew but then more water is added, plus vegetables (a few carrots, parnsnips and a lot of cubed potatoes). In terms of spices, it contains caraway seeds. So, it has really a soup consistancy and is eaten with some good fresh bread. This one is made of beef only.
PAPRIKÁS – this one is mainly known as the famous chicken paprikash. It is mostly made of -well, chicken, but it’s also common to prepare it with veal or also fish (such as freshwater catfish). The base is absolutely the same as with pörkölt but then a bit more water is added and at the very end of the cooking the sauce is thickened with the addition of sour cream and flour. So it has more sauce on it as pörkölt. This one is always served with dumplings.
(Ok, and finally we also have something which is really called GULYÁS – as it is-it would be a dish somewhere between a pörkölt and a gulyás soup – it would be thicker then a soup and contain potatoes. This would be mainly cooked outdoor in a big cast-iron kettle (bogrács) and most of the time a good amount of red wine would also be added. This is often prepared during folkloristic events for tourists, sometimes at outdoor parties but very rarely in home-cooking.
And by the way, all above (well, at least the three first ones) are dishes which are cooked and eaten in everyday life in Hungary, so those are not touristy dishes offered only on restaurant menus for foreigners but something which families prepare and eat very often.
Now, to the recipe. Of course, you can imagine, there are as many different goulash recipes as cooks. So, this is how we prepare it in my family and I would consider is as a basic recipe for a pörkölt. I think it’s really easy to cook it and you just absolutely can’t go wrong if you follow a few basic rules.
There a two SECRETS of a good goulash: the ingredients you add to it and the ones you don’t. In my opinion the secret ingredient of a perfect Hungarian stew (besides a good quality Hungarian paprika of course) is onion. A lot. More. A lot more!! For 1 kg meat (two pounds) I would use about 3-4 big onions. That seem to be a lot but this will create your thick sauce. As you’re simmering the stew on very low heat for about 1,5 hours, the onions melt into a sweet, spicy sauce, so you won’t have any pieces of it at the end.
What you never ever would add to a pörkölt are any of the following ones: flour, butter, canned tomatoes (all three I see in many „authentic” recipes). There are a few optional ingredients that could be added, this really depends on your taste, on habits and on what you have on hand. (e.g. pork fat instead of oil, smoked bacon, green pepper, fresh tomato, red wine, caraway seeds)
Recipe (4 servings):
1 kg beef for stews, cubed
3-4 big onions, finely chopped
4-5 tbsp groundnut oil
3-4 tbsp best quality Hungarian sweet paprika
1 green pepper, sliced (the kind which is on the picture, not bell peppers)
1 fresh tomato (this one I add only if I’m in Hungary or if I can get some really tasty good quality tomato, otherwise it just makes the sauce too watery and sour and doesn’t add anything to the flavour)
Heat oil in a saucepan. Add the finely chopped onions and cook until translucent. Now comes an important secret step: remove the saucepan from the heat and now add the paprika – this is very important as if you would do this step still on the heat, the paprika could burn from the sudden heat and get bitter. Put it back, add beef cubes and stir so that the spicy onion mix covers th meat evenly. Cover with about 100-150ml water so that the liquid doesn’t completely cover the meat. Add the sliced green pepper, the whole tomato (later will be removed at the end), salt, pepper. Simmer covered on very low heat for about 1-1,5 hours. After 1 hour, check, add a litle more water if necessary, so the stew doesn’t burn. Depending on the thickness of the sauce, cook for 10-15 minutes uncovered so that all the liquid reduces and all what you get is a spicy, thick sauce which covers the meat. It tastes even better reheated, I normally prepare it a day ahead.