Only last week, I was discussing with Pavol ( a super talented Slovakian database guy I work with) my weekend plans to make a Beef Goulash. We shared stories of the Goulash parties we had been to (I lived in Slovakia over 20 years ago and have been to quite a few), compared recipes, and critically the key ingredients that make a Goulash, a Goulash. Bacon was positioned as one of those essential ingredients in terms of delivering flavour and texture to the dish.
Whilst this is not my first Goulash recipe on Love the Kitchen (I posted my more traditional version in 2014), this is the first time I have taken what can be considered a very traditional and typically pork imbued dish and made it ‘Halal’. In pretty much every incarnation of a Goulash I have ever tried (including the more innocently sounding ‘Bean Goulash’), pork featured one way or another (be it rendered lard, ‘bacon’, or just large chunks of pork). My culinary challenge was to try and maintain the essence of a more traditional Goulash, yet omit what I had always considered to be an essential contributor to the overall dish and flavour – bacon. When I mentioned my challenge of a pork-less Goulash, I am convinced that Pavol thought I had lost the plot- I was aiming for the impossible. I was adamant that with such an omission, I was heading for a culinary disaster. How do you substitute bacon, for real I mean? I was not convinced of the meat-free alternatives, and had seriously considered using some Halal beef bacon I found online – but had a change of heart at the last minute. In the end, I just crumbled in a couple of Halal chicken stock cubes Marlini had brought back from Malaysia, and hoped that the added saltiness would do the trick.
In addition, my further challenge (I am first to admit that red wine is not the most ubiquitous ingredient in the plethora of Goulash variations and recipes ‘out there’) was to find a way to incorporate wine in a dish which was not going to be incompatible with Marlini’s faith – in other words – contain alcohol. By chance, we were watching a repeat episode of Raymond Blanc’s 2013 series ‘How to Cook Well‘ where he demonstrated that by boiling red wine for 5 minutes, the alcohol evaporated leaving just the flavour (what I wanted) behind. My Halal Beef Goulash recipe can really be seen as a hybrid between a more traditional Boeuf Bourguignon, (definitely one of my all time favourites), and a Goulash. I really think that marinating the beef in wine contributes significantly towards both the texture and flavour of the beef. Finding a way to include real wine (not the sweet dealcoholised stuff which is really no substitute), makes all the difference.
One of the ingredients I refer to is Goulash Creme – a wonderful combination of onions, tomatoes, cumin and spices. It you cannot find it in one of the many Central European stores, you will be able to find it on Amazon or a specialist food store. Each time I visit Slovakia or Hungary, I will certainly stock up on a few tubes … just in case. As a note of caution, there is the ‘hot’ version too and can be a tad on the fiery side.
If Goulash creme cannot be found, there are alternatives but I have never tried. Please check out Felicity Cloake’s How to cook the perfect Hungarian Goulash for guidance, but please be aware there is a conflict of opinion in regard to the role wine plays here. If any of you have time to make both, I would love to hear your comments (below) as to what you prefer.
Not only did both Marlini and I really enjoy this version, I can honesty say that I preferred to to my more traditional version. Goulash, like many stew type dishes always taste better the second or even third time they are reheated. My Halal beef Ghoulash is no exception, and one plus point of omitting the bacon was that once chilled over night, I was not met with a congealed layer of fat to deal with.
I highly recommend the best quality meat that you can find. Sadly, there is not a good local Halal butcher near me and I rely on the Internet. I am a strong advocate of Willowbrook Farm based in Oxfordshire, and used their incredibly succulent Beef Knuckle for this Halal beef Ghoulash recipe. Whilst it may seem very onerous, the oven is doing most of the work and it is a perfect weekend dish to combat the cold January weather many of us have been shivering through.
Finally, you might be thinking what to serve the Halal Beef Goulash with? I have had all sorts of accompaniments over the years – from bread (in Slovakia), to dumplings (in Czech Republic, or as I have recently learned, the newly renamed Czechia, really!), to rice, pasta – anything which mops up the wonderful sauce works a treat. Or for variety, try something different with each reheating.
I really hope you enjoy my Halal beef Gholash recipe as much as we did on our first, second, and even third helping.
- 1.5 kg halal beef knuckle, cut into bite-size chunks and fat/sinew trimmed
- 2-3 x large cloves garlic, grated
- 3-4 bay leaves (ideally fresh)
- 400ml red wine
- I large red onion, peeled and sliced into thin vertical wedges
- 1 large white onion, peeled and sliced into thin vertical wedges
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 - 3 tbsp paprika - I mix hot and sweet paprika for this
- 2 x large bell peppers, deseeded and roughly chopped (I use a mix of red and yellow)
- 2 x large tomatoes, blanched, skin removed, deseeded and roughly chopped
- 1 x tube Goulash creme/ paste
- ¼ tube concentrated tomato Puree
- 2 sticks celery
- 2 medium carrots
- 1 small bunch fresh flat leaf parsley
- 200g chestnut mushrooms, rinsed and halved.
- 500ml water
- 2x halal chicken or beef stock cubes
- 2 x red chillies to taste, sliced (if concerned about heat, you may wish to remove seeds)
- Freshly milled sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- First, add the 400 ml red wine, and bay leaves into a saucepan, bring to the boil, and boil for 5 minutes. Season with freshly milled sea salt and black pepper, stir well and leave to cool.
- 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 overnight.
- 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 red and white onions 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, tomato puree and water, and slowly bring to the boil.
- Crumble in the stock cubes and gently whisk into the sauce.
- Meanwhile, add the chopped tomatoes, peppers, parsley, and tomatoes 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 140C and continue for a further 2.5 hours.
- After an hour of cooking, add the celery and carrots and sir through, then return to the oven.
- Keep an eye on the goulash, and stir occasionally.
- Add the mushrooms, and continue to cook for a further 45 minutes.