Magyar Gulyas, or Hungarian Goulash, is a beef and potato stew flavoured with paprika. The present recipe is, I believe, fairly close to the authentic dish. It does not contain tomatoes (as the German version does), and is not served over noodles, since it contains its own potato accompaniment. This is not to say that the German version, served over buttered noodles, is not delicious; it is simply something different. With more liquid, this recipe gives Gulaschsuppe, a very popular dish east of the Rhine. This is a very easy dish to prepare, in a single pot, and is very comforting in winter when wolves are howling outside in the blowing snow.
It is important to get the best paprika available. Any paprika will give a passable flavour (provided it is used in sufficient concentration), but all paprikas are not created equal, and a good Hungarian paprika has an inimitable taste. The best paprika comes from the Szeged region, and will be so labelled. For this dish, sweet paprika seems best to me. Paprika ranges from sweet to extra sharp. The extra sharp will remove the lining from your esophagus and burn a hole in your stomach. Still, some like its violence, but probably not in everyday gulyas. The paprika I use comes directly from Hungary, and is called Szegedi Paprika Edesnemes, and is produced by Füszerpaprika-Örlemény. It greets me with "Száraz, hüvös helyen tartandó!", which means keep in a dry, cool place.
Start by frying a rasher of bacon crisp to get the fat and flavour, in a large frying pan with a lid. Remove the bacon. Then brown a pound or so of stewing beef, best in two installments to avoid drowning it in juice. Do not use tender beef, such as fillet steak or sirloin. The cheap tougher beef will braise to an excellent texture, while the expensive tender beef will become crumbly and nasty. Remove the browned beef to a small dish, and saute a chopped small to medium onion until transparent. A little extra oil may be necessary. Add about two tablespoons of paprika to the onion and stir, then return the beef to the skillet. Crumble the rasher of bacon into the pan. Some crushed garlic can be added at this time if you wish. Pour in a can of beef stock, stir, cover, and simmer for about two hours. At the end of this time, the beef should be tender. Test it to make sure.
Peel four or five red potatoes and dice into 1/2-inch cubes. It is best to use potatoes that will not boil to a mush. Add to the beef, stir, and adjust the liquid with water so the potatoes are covered. Cover and simmer. The gulyas is done when the potatoes are soft, 15-25 minutes. Taste the liquid and add salt and paprika to taste. Serve in a shallow dish or spaghetti plate. Complement with a green vegetable, a salad, or a vitamin supplement. Finish with a nice glass of Tokaji.
Both paprikas and potatoes came to Hungary through the Dual Monarchy after the first contacts with the New World, shortly after 1500. Paprika is ground dried red pepper pods (Capsicum tetragonum), but it has a more complex flavour than New Mexico red chile, due to extensive selective breeding.
Composed by J. B. Calvert
Created 9 January 2005
Last revised 26 August 2006