TRADITIONAL HUNGARIAN GOULASH (GULYÁSLEVES)
The time has arrived for me to post a very traditional beef goulash recipe. Goulash (Gulyas) is the most famous Hungarian dish in the world. It’s one of Hungary’s national dishes -- a symbol of the country. And it is for a good reason. It’s a dish made with basic ingredients like meat, peppers and root vegetables elevated to perfection by the use of Hungary’s most famous spice: paprika. Goulash can be made with beef or pork but the traditional way of making it is with beef. Originally this was the signature dish of the herdsmen on the Hungarian Great Plain (puszta), the "Hungarian cowboys" who used to live a nomadic lifestyle and would cook it over the fire in a cauldron.
Making the dish also goes hand-in-hand with drinking pálinka, Hungary’s national drink. There is something about getting smoky while standing around a huge kettle of goulash that’s slowly cooking over a wood fire while sharing a bottle of homemade pálinka with your best friends that makes you feel fulfilled and happy. Stories start flowing, and playful teasing and bantering follows. That’s what goulash is about: friends, laughter, drinks and flavorful food.
Hungarian paprika is the signature flavor in most famous Hungarian dishes. It is very different than let’s say Spanish paprika. Hungarian paprika is sundried, whereas its Spanish counterpart is slowly smoked over a wood fire. As a result, the flavors differ significantly. Hungarian paprika is known for its rich, bittersweet, and intense red peppery flavour. It’s worth the money to buy the Hungarian variety for this dish to get an authentic Hungarian flavor. Jó étvágyat!
TRADITIONAL HUNGARIAN GOULASH (GULYASLEVES)
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 2.5 hours
Inactive time: 2 hours
- 4 Tbsp. pork lard (or bacon fat, or vegetable oil)
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 1 ½ tsp ground caraway seeds
- 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 ½ Tbsp. Hungarian paprika (mainly sweet and a little bit of hot)
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 2 cups low-sodium beef broth
- 2 lbs. beef shoulder, cut into ½ inch cubes (chuck and shank are also good)
- 5 cloves garlic, crushed and roughly chopped
- 2-3 Roma tomatoes, diced
- 2 Hungarian waxed peppers (or red bell peppers), deseeded and cut into half rings
- ¾ lb. carrots (about 2-3 large carrots), peeled and cut into rounds
- ½ lb. parsley roots (about 2-3 parsley roots), peeled and cut into rounds (or parsnips)
- ½ lb. celery root (1 small celery root), peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
- 1 lbs. potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
- 3-4 sprigs of fresh parsley leaves, tied together
- 4-5 cups hot water
- 1 ½ tsp wood smoked salt, optional
- ½ tbs salt
- ½ cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
- In a large cast iron Dutch oven, heat lard over medium-high heat. When the lard starts shimmering, add onions and cook for 8 minutes. Stir often so they don’t burn. If they start browning, add a tablespoon of water.
- Stir in caraway seeds, black pepper and bay leaves, and cook for 2 more minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat, and sprinkle paprika all over the onions. Stir often! (Burnt paprika is bitter.)
- Return the Dutch oven to the fire. Add ½ cup beef broth, and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add beef cubes and garlic. Stir well until each piece is coated with paprika gravy. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the beef cubes start browning.
- Mix in tomatoes, peppers and the remainder of the broth (1 ½ cup). The broth should cover the meat and vegetables by an inch or two. If it doesn’t, add hot water.
- Reduce the heat to low, cover the Dutch oven, and let it simmer for an hour and a half.
- Add the root vegetables (carrots, parsley, celery, and potatoes) and the tied parsley leaves to the pot. Add 4-5 cups of hot water to cover by an inch or two.
- Season with salt, and bring the soup to a boil over high heat. When it starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 30 minutes uncovered.
- Using a sieve, skim off the scum. Remove the parsley sprigs and the bay leaves and discard them. Taste and adjust saltiness.
- Serve goulash hot with fresh bread. You can sprinkle with chopped parsley.
- I usually add the salt at the end when cooking with beef, so that it stays tender rather than becoming chewy.
- Recently I discovered wood smoked salt at my local grocery store, so I used a bit to simulate the subtle smoky flavor that comes from traditional goulash. Historically, goulash was made on wood fire in a cast iron enamel cauldron.