Last week I returned from a fantastic reunion in Slovakia – a place I really see as my second home. I taught English to adults in a town called Roznava 18 years ago (I was one of the youngest in the class at the time), and was exposed to many great traditions – my favourite was being invited to several Goulash parties during my tenure there.
As I have come to learn, there is no single Goulash recipe- everyone has their own method and approach – the common theme is that great pride is taken into making their very own recipe. This summer, my friend Vlado won the local Jovice village Goulash making competition – quite an accolade with a trophy to boot. Clearly, making Goulash is a serious business and a tradition I have really come to value. What could be better than bringing together friends and family, cooking a great meal over an open fire in glorious weather, and have a a few beers to boot?
Michal, Another of my friends used to tell me, that there are rules to making Goulash – it always made me think of the classic rules which featured in David Fincher’s classic 1999 film, Fight Club.
The first rule of making Goulash, is don’t be drunk.
The second rule of making Goulash is, only have one chef.
The third rule of making Goulash is (damnit, I may have forgotten as I broke the first – I am kidding).
As there are so many permutations and variations to choose from, it was impossible for me to choose the ‘one’ to make at home. My solution – combine lots of ideas and hope it did not end up as a total disaster. For pragmatic reasons, I decided to oven cook my version as it is typically cooked in a large cauldron on an open fire outdoors. I also made the decision to have red wine factor as an ingredient – largely down to my French influence – or just me being a bit of an old soak and inspired by my Boeuf Bourguignon recipe (yet to get written up on LTK and looking for an opportunity).
The other variation is what I chose to serve with it – I thought the combination of Carmargue Rouge rice and Puy lentils (or Rentils as I call it) would complement this dish well.
- 1.5 kg braising beef, cut into bitesize chunks and fat/sinew trimmed
- 2 x large cloves garlic, grated
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 200ml red wine
- I large red onion, peeled and sliced into thin vertical wedges
- 1 large white onion, peeled and sliced into thin vertical wedges
- 8 rashers thick smoked and streaky bacon, cut into small chunks
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 - 3 tbsp paprika - the heat is entirely up to you
- 2 x bell peppers, deseeded and roughly chopped
- 2 x medium tomatoes, blanched, skin removed, deseeded and roughly chopped
- 1 x tube Gulash creme/ paste
- 1 stick celery
- 2 medium carrots
- ½ cup dried mushrooms, re-hydrated in warm water for 15 mins then drained
- 2 x pints water
- 2 x chillies to taste (optional), added whole
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
- First, combine the chunks of beef, grated garlic and bay leaves in a large bowl and cover with red wine. Season with black pepper and sea salt, mix thoroughly, cover with cling film and, if possible, refrigerate the marinade over night.
- Set aside a large casserole dish (with lid), then fire up a large frying pan on a medium heat, add 1x tbsp of olive oil, then cook the onion and bacon together until soft and lightly browned. Place into the casserole dish.
- Drain the red wine from the marinade in a colander, and save it for later. Next, gently heat up another tbsp olive oil, and add a tbsp of paprika. Be careful not to burn it. The aim is to give the oil a great colour and flavour. Then, in batches, seal off the chunks of beef and place in the casserole. Repeat the previous step with the paprika and oil, until all the meat is cooked.
- Preheat the oven to 180C.
- Next, add the reserved red wine marinade to the frying pan, the goulash paste and water, and slowly bring to the boil.
- Meanwhile, add the chopped tomatoes, peppers, parsley, tomatoes and celery to the casserole dish and mix thoroughly. Also (optional) add the chillies to the dish.
- Once the stock has reduced and thickened slightly, pour over the the other ingredients, mix thoroughly, and cover with a lid.
- Cook, in a middle oven for 30 minutes, then reduce to 120C and continue for a further 3 hours. Keep an eye on the goulash, and stir occasionally.
- Add the mushrooms, and continue to cook for a further 30 minutes.
- Prior to serving, remove the celery, carrot and parsley and discard.
- Serve with mashed potatoes, rentils (recipe to follow), or freshly made bread. So many options...