(Goulash with flour dumplings)
My much better half was in the mood for some beef over the weekend, so remembering I had some Hungarian paprika – and a decent quantity – my mind turned to Gulyás as we had not eaten any for a considerable time. I remember having eaten goulash in Vienna, (the seat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) in a fine restaurant, charmingly called the Goulash Museum. Many variants were on offer and indeed in Hungary itself, there exists many variations on the dish, which that hardly surprises me. From about the 9th century when the Gulyás (cattle herdsmen), from the Puszta, drove their cattle to various places to sell the cattle, I feel confident they used what they could carry, forage and find, rather than ride around with a recipe book in the saddlebags. One thing the 9th century herdsmen would not have carried was paprika that is now ubiquitous in Hungarian cuisine. The first peppers introduced to Hungary, were planted by Turks in Buda in 1529, after being introduced into Europe by Spain from Mexico and thence to the Balkans. Ladies and gentlemen, globalisation is nothing new.
So, to make your goulash and dumplings (though if you prefer potatoes, I won’t tell anyone), cube about a kilo of rump steak. This I marinated in a blend of onion, garlic, salt and pepper for about six hours, this can also be done overnight, covered and kept in the fridge. In Sultan Center I found some rump steaks with some good fat detailing which is great as this is a slow cook stew and the fat dissolves releasing flavour.
The one thing that one can be sure of is that the 9th century herdsman eat as we now say today “nose to tail” and riding from the central plains of Hungary to Venice and back, for example, needed an energy boost, plus they did not have the dubious luxury of wasting food along the way.
The stew needs to cook for a good 1½ to 2 hours, low and slow, it is after all a stew, not a fifteen minute meal, so best for a weekend or cook in advance; the quantity worked out to four to six portions, depending on hunger, appetite etc.
Finely cut a medium size brown onion and fry in butter until translucent and halfway through add some celery, if possible with the leaves. Some people add celery salt later, but a) I could not find celery salt in the market, b) celery salt is made by adding toasted celery leaves to salt and crushing the result and c) onion and celery are two out three building blocks in a soffritto or mirepoix. i.e. the vegetable base for very many French, Italian and other European and world dishes. I added carrot later, after adding 2 tablespoons of my Hungarian paprika, before adding the meat, so a slight change of ingredient order.
After the meat changed colour on a medium-high heat, I added some salt and pepper to taste and added beef stock and carrots, let it boil and then turned the heat down ‘low-medium’ for the main ‘cook’ as it were, not burning, not down to cold, checking for liquid from time to time and giving a stir. Around the 1¾ hr time checked liquid and seasoning and turned to the dumplings.
For the galuska, spaetzle or flour dumplings, depending on what you wish to call it, I took my trust mug of flour, 3 eggs and mixed well for 10 minutes with salt and pepper, milk and water bit by bit and grate some nutmeg into the mixture. The consistency should ‘move’; not runny liquid or hard dough (though with a more solid dough you can make ‘pinched dumplings’, that is you pinch of dough and drop in boiling salted water. In Hungary, they have a gadget as part of the normal scheme of things, maybe in Germany too, that sits on the pan and the loose batter falls through the slots in drips. In Q8, I have no seen such a device, but a box grater and spatula does the job, necessity being the mother of invention. Boil on a high heat for a few minutes, drain, portion out and by that time, the Gulyás should be ready to serve on top of the flour dumplings.
Day 2, we lightly fried the remaining dumplings in butter to heat them up.
Serve as it is or with some sour cream. As mentioned earlier, goulash covers many variants so adding extra vegetables or mushrooms or tomato, even, the additions should not be considered a sin against ‘authenticity’ as the aim is taste after all and most of us are not 9th century herdsmen who failed to record what they actually did and never knew paprika either. It is a base for experiment and enjoyment after all.
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