Sunday, June 14, 2009

Gulyás - Hungarian Goulash

I think just about everybody has a memory of their school's version of goulash, I certainly do. It usually involved hamburger, macaroni and tinned tomatoes, possibly an onion or two. Traditional Hungarian goulash cooked by a traditional Hungarian!

I had my understanding of goulash gently corrected by my Hungarian friends the last evening of my stay in Budapest. Incidentally goulash - (to pronounce it in Hungarian, I think it is similar to English but one omits the "L" sound) is the word for herdsman or cattleman. It is a dish that was cooked outdoors by cattlemen, similar to the origins of American chili.

Last year when I visited Budapest there was some sort of May Day celebration in the centre of the city. It involved a goulash contest where large groups of people wearing team t-shirts slaved over an open fire that had a beautiful cauldron (bogrács) suspended over it by a large metal tripod. I was told that this was a goulash contest. It reminded me so much of a chili cook-off as they have in Texas. Indeed each cauldron had some sort of soup bubbling away in it. I was informed that this soup was none other than goulash and cooking it over the fire was the most traditional way to prepare it. So, proper Hungarian goulash is soup and not the casserole style dishes I was served throughout my childhood.A fire was lit in a front garden and proper goulash making started.

I get hungry just looking at this clip!

Tough bits of meat are made tender by the long cooking process. Indeed, my friend The Hungarian wished for longer to simmer his creation but time was not on his side.

The meat is browned first. Then onions, possibly garlic is then added . . . and then you start getting into the rest of the soup ingredients. The recipes are varied but goulash always includes but is not limited to meat, potatoes, paprika, peppers. This is when the peppers were added. Potatoes in this version were added last.

Incidentally traditional Hungarian goulash does not contain any tomatoes. It gets is wonderful red colour from the copious amounts of paprika that is thrown in. If you are wearing white, be careful as goulash splatters will be hard to get out later if you're a sloppy eater!We helped keep The Hungarian company by sitting outside in the beautiful evening air and sipping wine that was purchased earlier in the week.

I must say that the end result was sublime! It was served with big slabs of bread. Food cooked outdoors always tastes good but this was above and beyond better. I wish I had remembered to take a photo of the bowls at the table later on. My dear friends are so generous and though the goulash was delicious, I am ashamed to say that I could not finish the portion that was given to me.

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