Posted by: Rachel | March 1, 2010

a goulash by any other name…

I sat down this morning to write about yesterday’s paté class. I was going to tell you how goooood it smelled in the kitchen; anything that starts with sauteed onions and involves port *and* cognac can’t be too bad, after all. But, before writing I checked my email. Today’s daily word turns out to be “goulash” and I got derailed.

Goulash, according to the email, is:

1. A mixture of disparate elements; hodgepodge.
2. A stew of meat and vegetables, seasoned with paprika.
3. In the game of bridge, a round played with hands produced by a rearrangement of previously dealt cards.

From Hungarian gulyás, short for gulyáshús (herdsman’s meat), from gulya (herdsman) + hús (meat).

I think every culture that has a soup pot and fire makes some sort of “goulash”. It is the “Stone Soup” methode de la cuisine. Louise Dickinson Rich in “We Took to the Woods” writes about the New England take on goulash, which is basically “and then make chowder” but I’ll save that for another post.

My Hungarian cookbook offers this recipe for “Kettle Gulyás” (slightly paraphrased below) which seems pretty close to definition 2:

2 medium onion, coarse chopped
2 T lard
2-1/2 Lb beef chuck cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/2 lb beef heart, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (optional)
1 clove garlic
pinch of caraway seed
2 T “Noble Rose” paprika**
1 ripe tomato, rough chopped
2 green peppers, seeded and rough chopped

In a large Dutch oven sautée the onions in the lard over low heat. Do not brown. Once the onions become translucent (maybe 15 minutes) add the beef and stir to combine. Turn the heat up to medium and brown the beef.

Chop the garlic and mash with the caraway seed and a little salt. Remove the pot from the heat, add the garlic mixture and the paprika. Stir to mix well. Add 2-1/2 quarts *warm* water. Cover the pot and cook over low heat for 1 hour.

Add the tomato and green peppers and just enough water to give the mix a “soupy” consistency. Simmer 30 minutes more. Add the potatoes and test for salt. Add salt if needed. Cook until the potatoes are cooked through – another 30 minutes or so.

** “Noble Rose” paprika is *sweet* rather than hot Hungarian paprika. Spanish paprika is more easily available, but is not an adequate substitute according the the (Hungarian) author.

Sounds good to me. I can get beef heart at the meat markets here, and maybe I’ll try it if I get on it before the weather warms up too much – not warm weather fare, I fear! Still, March seems to be coming in like a lion, so perhaps there’s time. If you make a pot, let me know! And, what’s *your* “goulash”? Cassoulet? Chowder? Hot and sour soup? I’d love to know!



  1. Had some goulash in Canada many years ago. Loved it! Don’t seem to find it often on menus of places I frequent. Beef heart? Eeep.

    • Thanks for the comment! I think it helps if you live in a place that has 1) a Hungarian community and 2) winter 🙂

  2. I’m making it this weekend, although winter’s definitely over here (Romania). I’ve read a lot of recipes so far which boil down to a few variations. Yours is a combination.

    I think I’ve made my mind at the mixture that I personally am going to try. Compared to yours I’m going to lose the tomatoes (not that I don’t like tomatoes but apparently, Hungarian purist chefs say that the taste of godly paprika should not be altered by the foul taste of lowly tomatoes…), and I’m going to add one small carrot, one small parsnip (it is a wintery stew after all), then I’m going to add one bay leaf and some thyme for added flavour. Finally, I’m adding some potatoes for added thickness.

    Care if I post back the results?

    • Please do!! It sounds yummy… and parsnips are under-appreciated here, I’m afraid. Thanks for the ideas…. hmmm… (g)

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