Saturday, 16 November 2013

Hungarian Goulash

It's been a long time since my last post... I've spent the past year planning, executing and recovering from my wedding. I think I am now safely recuperated.

My last post was on the wonderful city of Budapest, so it follows nicely for this post to be about the famous Hungarian dish, Goulash, or Gulyás in Hungarian. I have been thinking about Goulash for a few months (probably since it started to get cold in London), and I recently encountered some at a cafe in Neal's Yard, Covent Garden. It was a miserable rainy day, and Goulash was a perfect antidote to sustain my friend and I, battling the shopping crowds in the drizzle. So, I got to thinking about making some Goulash myself. Something that I always meant to get around to doing after I left Hungary.

The key ingredient in Goulash is paprika. And not just any old Sainsburys paprika; you want the real
deal Hungarian paprika. Paprika is a spice that can vary wildly from place to place, it depends I guess on how they grow their peppers, and also whether it is smoked (as it is in Spain - think chorizo). So to get the right flavour, you need to find quality paprika from Hungary - paprika is what flavours this dish so it is worth investing a bit of legwork into finding this stuff.

And so it was that I set off on a Saturday from South London all the way north to Green Lanes, Harringay. Walking these streets is like being transported to Istanbul; humming with people busy making and eating Turkish bread, kebabs and sweets. There are also a few Eastern European shops dotted about; among them, Paprika Store, where I found my Hungarian paprika. Careful when you buy this - there are two different varieties, hot and sweet. The sweet one is what you want - mine says 'csemege' on the packet. I also picked up a tube of hot paprika paste, which can be added to Goulash at the table to spice it up.

The next most important thing for me to find was some Hungarian red "Bull's Blood" wine. When I first tasted Goulash, after a very long day trying to find a campsite in Budapest, I also tasted this rich red wine, and it was a beautiful combination. Bull's Blood (Egri Bikavér) hails from Eger, east of Budapest, and the story goes that Eger soldiers held off the Turks trying to take the city, which the Turks put down to the local wine that they thought was actually bull's blood. I later had the chance to see Eger for myself; here you can buy litres of the stuff for a few euros.

Something so available in Hungary, proved elusive in London. I spent the rest of the day trekking through the city in search of Hungarian wine, even visiting the fanciest wine shop in London, Berry Bros & Rudd, to no avail. Arriving home in the dark, disappointed, I scoured the internet for boutique wine shops (oh how difficult it is to find a non-chain store ANYTHING in London!), finally finding a place in Greenwich, Theatre of Wine. I gave them a call, and they had one single bottle of Bull's Blood, which they helpfully put aside for me to pick up the next day.

And so I had all the essentials, plus a chilly Sunday afternoon in which to make it, and a lovely friend who had agreed to come for dinner and be a guinea pig for my first batch of Hungarian Gulyás.

Hungarian Goulash Recipe

2 Onions, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
700g stewing beef, cubed
2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika
1 clove garlic, chopped
Black pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 carrots, chopped into rounds (approximately 1cm thick)
2 parsnips, chopped into rounds as above
4 potatoes, chopped into chunks
1 large tomato, skinned
Couple of stalks of parsley

Rub the cubed beef with salt and pepper and set aside. Sauté the onions in a large cast iron pot/casserole dish (like a Le Creuset, except ours was a fraction of the price at Sainsburys) over a medium heat until they start to break down and wilt. Add the caraway seeds and stir for a moment to enjoy the fragrance, then add the beef and cook until juice starts to run out.

Add garlic, paprika, then 1 cup hot water (to almost cover the beef). Simmer for 1 3/4 hours over a low heat.

Cut the root vegetables into chunks - not too small so that they stay together while cooking. I sliced the carrots and parsnips into rounds, and the potatoes into chunks.

Skin the tomato and chop finely. Add the parsnip, carrot, tomato and potato, plus 1 1/2 cups boiling water.

Simmer half an hour then add the pepper and another cup of hot water, simmer another 20 minutes. Goulash sits somewhere between soup and stew, so make sure there is enough liquid. Remove the parsley before serving.

Serve hot with buttered rye bread, plus sour cream, hot paprika paste and fresh parsley on the side (incidentally the colours of the Hungarian flag). Don't forget the Bull's Blood wine!

The goulash was fantastic, especially for a first attempt. Next time I would add more liquid so that it is more on the soup side of stew.

I don't know if they do this in Hungary, but we finished the evening with some peppermint tea, served up in a lovely Vietnamese tea set, which was a wedding present from a dear friend.


  1. Looks great! I have also been thinking about making goulash since we had it at Neal's Yard. So I'm glad you tested a recipe - I'll have to give it a try! xx

    1. Yes give it a try, it's perfect Goulash weather this week! x

  2. So amazing you found a bottle of that wine! Serendipity indeed!


I love receiving comments on my blog. Please leave your thoughts, ideas, tips, stories & experiences below.