Here in the northwest corner of Washington State, winter has set in – temperatures in the 30s and 40s, heavy wind, raining sideways. It’s the time to deploy all the goodies we grew and preserved last summer – stocks, sauces, root veggies and such – time for soups and stews.
One of our favorites is what you probably call Goulash, but Gulyás would be more accurate – either way, it’s Hungary’s answer to winter storms.
Gulyás is a National dish of Hungary, (albeit it’s popular throughout Central Europe in various iterations.) Gulyás has shown up in recorded history as far back as the 9th century. Like chili in northern Mexico, it started as a dried meat preparation carried by shepherds – just add water and you’d have a hearty meal ready for days end.
The version we enjoy now is a bit different from the original. For about the last 500 years, Gulyás has been powered by powdered chiles – those originated in the Americas, but took the world by storm when introduced across Europe and Asia by the Spaniards back in the 1500s.
The Hungarian version of dried, powdered capsicum annuum, AKA paprika, goes damn near that far back – to the 1600s, when the Turks grew it in Buda, now known as Budapest – Ever since, Gulyás has been paprika powered.
Gulyás is a perfect vehicle to celebrate fall harvest root vegetables with. Other variants contain dry pinto or cranberry beans (Babgulyás), sauerkraut (Szekelygulyás), or haricot vert (Palocgulyás). Versatile stuff, indeed.
For us at home, this is a godsend – like many legendary dishes, there is no one authentic version – there are many. Everyone’s mom makes Golyás, as does any restaurant worth their stuff, and all of them can be (and usually are) glorious – yours will be too.
The paprika in Gulyás affords significant room to play. There are three major varieties you’ll find – sweet, hot, and smoked. Use one, or mix, and you’ll find myriad differences in your final dish. For a real treat, chase down genuine Hungarian paprika – of that, Rubin Szeged Sweet is arguably the best there is – though other famous makers certainly have fine stuff as well.
Paprika isn’t the only unique note to this stew, there’s a great minor note of caraway, the earthy-herby influence of parsnip, and the brightness of celery leaf or parsley. The beef you choose should be a lean roast cut. Onions can be yellow, sweet, red – whatever you prefer. Fresh varietal potatoes will shine here as well.
You’ll notice some leeway in several ingredients – feel free to tweak as you see fit. Any stock you like will work fine, but water will deliver a great dish, too.
In addition to the ingredients, method is important – if you don’t follow the steps, you’ll get a nice soup or stew, but it won’t reach its full potential.
Finally, you don’t need to make or add csipetke, but they’re surprising delicious, authentic, and better yet – they maintain their firmness for next day leftovers.
Urban’s Reasonably Authentic Hungarian Gulyás
4-6 Cups Stock or Water
1 1/2 Pounds Beef
2 medium Onions
2 large Roma Tomatoes
2 fresh Green Bell Peppers
2-3 small Potatoes (any variety you like)
1-2 fresh Carrots
1 Fat Parsnip
2-3 fat cloves fresh Garlic
2-3 fresh Celery Leaves (dry will work, as will parsley)
2-4 Tablespoons Hungarian Paprika
2 teaspoons ground Caraway Seed
2 Bay Leaves
2 Tablespoons Avocado Oil
Fresh ground Pepper
End trim, peel, and rough dice onion.
End trim, peel and mince garlic.
Trim the top and white membranes from the green peppers and rough dice.
End trim and rough dice carrots and parsnip.
End trim and dice tomatoes.
Rough dice potatoes.
Combine carrot, parsnip, peppers, and potatoes in a mixing bowl and cover veggies with cold water.
Roll up celery leaf (or parsley) and chiffonade cut.
Grind caraway seed in a mortal and pestle (or spice grinder) until you develop a rough powder.
Cut beef into roughly 1/2” cubes.
Measure and portion out bay leaves, oil, salt, and pepper.
In a cast iron dutch oven over medium high heat, add the oil and heat through.
Add the onion, a pinch of salt and a couple twists of pepper – sauté until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
Add the paprika to the onions and stir in well to thoroughly coat.
Add the cubed beef to the hot dutch oven, and sauté until lightly browned on all sides, about 10-12 minutes.
Add the minced garlic, a 3 finger pinch of salt, 10-12 twists of pepper, the ground caraway seed, and bay leaves, and stir everything in well to incorporate.
Cover the mix with stock or water to about an inch above the goodies.
When the meat blend starts to boil, reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer.
Simmer for 90 minutes, adding water or stock as needed to maintain a full cover.
After 90 minutes, add the diced veggie blend, including the soaking water, and stir well to incorporate.
Simmer for another 90-120 minutes, until everything is nice and tender.
Taste the broth and adjust salt and pepper balance as needed. You may add more paprika at this point too, if you wish.
Serve with csipetke, or crusty bread, sour cream, and a nice glass of rustic red.
This is a signature Hungarian pasta – they have a delightful, firm chew and they carry flavors like nobody’s business. Derived from the Hungarian word csípni (pinch), the name speaks to the technique of making the pasta – little pinky nail sized chunks are slightly flattened and pinched off a thin rope of dough, then cooked in water or the gulyás, as you prefer.
1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour
1 large Egg
2 finger pinch Sea Salt
1 teaspoon cold Water
On a clean work surface, place the flour and make a well in the middle.
Crack the egg into the well and whisk with a fork until well beaten.
Add a pinch of salt to the egg mix and whisk in.
Slowly add flour to the egg to form a dough.
Add the water if needed.
Knead for about 5 minutes until you have a firm, smooth dough.
Cover with a clean, damp towel and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
Roll the dough into a cigar shape, spinning it between floured palms, stretching and reducing the diameter until you’ve got a rope roughly 1/4” in diameter.
Pull/pinch a piece off the end of the rope and continue until all your csipetke are formed.
Boil in well salted water until the csipetke float to the surface, about 3-5 minutes.
Alternatively, you can toss the csipetke into your simmering gulyás for about 10 minutes before serving.