There are few things in life that are more satisfying than a rich, warm stew on a cold winter evening. And a good, proper Hungarian goulash is one of the greatest stews of all. Although we’ve tried many soupy, watered-down varieties of this in the past, it wasn’t until we had it done right, in a nondescript little basement restaurant in Budapest.
The Importance of Quality Ingredients
It’s no secret that the quality of ingredients you choose to use have an effect on the outcome of a dish. However, this is especially important in this case. This Hungarian goulash recipe is overall quite easy to prepare and the ingredients are relatively common. The key here is to spend the little extra to purchase quality product before you begin.
Most of the paprika found in a typical grocery store shelf is a blend of several varieties and is quite often bland or (even worse) bitter. Real, proper Hungarian paprika comes in several grades and varieties, with flavours ranging in pungency and sweetness, and in some cases heat. As the paprika is the real star of goulash, you’ll really want to pick up something with a strong flavour and a lot of balance. Go to a specialty store or search online for something to suit your needs for this one.
As for the meat, quite often with stews you’ll find the recipes calling for “stewing beef”, which is just a code word for tough, fatty leftovers. I suggest going for beef chuck, which comes from the powerful shoulder of the animal. Although the meat is very tough, it’s incredibly flavourful; and cooking it slowly in this stew will result in perfectly tender pieces of meat.
The same thing goes for the bacon, wine and tomatoes. Don’t use that paper-thin, “flavoured” grocery store bacon. Get some thick-cut, smokey stuff from the butcher. The tomatoes should be picked when they are ripe, when they’re at their most flavourful stage. Skip the grocery store here and buy some heirloom varieties from your local farmers market. If this isn’t an option, buy canned tomatoes – they were picked and canned at their absolute peak ripeness.
And the wine, it should go without saying, but a lot of people still believe that there is good wine and there is cooking wine. Remember that any time you’re cooking with wine, you’re reducing the liquid and concentrating the flavours. If you start with a shitty tasting bottle of wine, that bad flavour is going to become even more intense as you cook.
Plus, you’re going to want to be drinking it while you cook, so you might as well treat yourself!
Authentic Hungarian Goulash
- 2 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil
- 1 lb Beef Chuck, cubed
- 4 pieces thick cut Bacon, diced
- 2 Carrot, diced
- 1 large Onion, diced
- 2 Red Pepper, diced
- 4 cloves Garlic, minced
- 2 tsp. Thyme
- 1 cup Red Wine
- 2 Potatoes, peeled and cubed (a little smaller than the chuck)
- 1 Potato, peeled and finely grated (this will help thicken the stew)
- 2 large heirloom Tomatoes, diced
- 4 Tbsp. Hungarian Paprika
- 2 Tbsp. Tomato paste
- 1 L Beef stock
- 1/2 cup flat leaf Parsley, chopped
- Kosher Salt and Black Pepper to taste
- 1 cup Sour cream
1. Preheat oven to 300ºF (150ºC).
2. In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
3. Season beef with kosher salt and sear on all sides, in small batches, until well browned. Remove the beef and set aside. Reduce heat to medium-low.
4. Add bacon and cook slowly, to render the fat, until crisp.
5. Turn heat back to medium-high and add onions and carrots, stir well and cook for three minutes, until soft. Add red pepper, garlic and thyme. Continue cooking for a few minutes longer until vegetables begin to brown.
6. Pour in the wine and stir, scraping all of those tasty bits from the bottom of the pot. Stir in potatoes, tomatoes, paste and paprika.
7. Add the stock and the cubed beef, stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer, cover with a tight-fitting lid and place in the oven for two hours.
8. Remove from oven, stir in parsley and season with kosher salt and pepper.
9. Serve over your buttered egg noodles, your favourite pasta, rice, or simply on its own. Top with a spoonful of sour cream and enjoy with the rest of that bottle of wine!