Gosh, it’s goulash!


DINNER IN A BOWL Hungarian goulash is the ideal chunky winter soup.

The Cabots

We have a new addition to the staff at Cabot’s Foods. Peter Berki, from Hungary, has joined the team as sous-chef under head chef, Piotr.
I’ve been speaking to Peter about Hungarian food, and I was particularly curious about goulash. Peter explained to me that the word ‘gulyás’ literally means ‘cowboy’. Goulash was the traditional food for herd workers; in the past, it would have contained whatever portion of beef a person could afford, the rest would be fleshed out with carrots and potatoes. Every family has their own recipe.
In Ireland, we might see ‘goulash’ served with rice, potatoes or pasta. In Hungary, that would a be a ‘pörkölt’, a stew, whereas a true goulash is always a soup.

The real deal
Goulash is flavoured with Hungarian sweet paprika. If you want an authentic flavour, it’s important to source the right paprika. It’s hard to get in Ireland but you can order it online. This is not a hot spice, rather, it’s fruity. Smoked or regular paprika won’t do the job.
The best meat is beef shin, bone removed and cut into 5cm pieces. Your butcher will prepare this for you. It’s a cheap cut and tough to start with; you need to cook it for a long time till it’s so tender it’s breaking apart, almost melting. Hungarian goulash also typically contains a green pepper, and Peter has an observation to make on this: All peppers are not equal.
Hungary has a much greater variety of peppers than Ireland. The green pepper they use is a totally different shape and texture to our hard, bitter green peppers. Peter has learnt that here it’s better to replace the green pepper with long, sweet red bell pepper. In his recipe, Peter likes to add some celery leaves when the water goes in, as he likes the flavour it gives. He removes these before serving.
And it’s all about time, he stresses; you need to get the onions really sweet and caramelised and you need to give the meat enough time to soften. Be careful not to add the potato and carrot too soon – you want it to be cooked but firm, not mushy. If you’d like a bit of heat in the dish, feel free to add a bit of chilli; fresh or dried.

Peter’s Hungarian Goulash

What you need
>  A tbsp of beef dripping or lard
>  500g shin beef, chopped into 5cm pieces
>  200g chopped onion
>  2 cloves of garlic
>  Half a sweet (long) red pepper
>  Half a medium tomato
>  1 tbsp Hungarian sweet paprika
>  Pinch of caraway seeds
>  2 diced carrots
>  2 diced potatoes
>  1 litre of water
>  Salt and pepper
>  Chopped parsley to serve

What you do
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, sauté the onion for a few minutes, add the garlic and half a chopped red pepper, and half a tomato, and sauté for a couple of minutes. Reduce the heat and sweat for at least an hour. You will need to remove from the heat and stir regularly. You might need to add a drop of water – you want this to be caramelised but not brown.
Next, add the meat and fry on a higher heat until most of the meat juice has cooked away.  Add the sweet paprika and caraway seeds and stir gently over a low heat for a minute, mixing all the time. Add the water and the leaves from the top of a bunch of celery sticks – just rip them off and stick them in. Add salt and pepper.
Pop a lid on the saucepan and simmer for at least one hour until the meat is tender. Play this by ear – it could take up to two hours. Keep adding water as it evaporates; you need to have two fingers’ depth of water covering the meat. When you are happy with the meat, add the potatoes and carrots and simmer until they are cooked but still firm. Remove the celery leaves and check seasoning.
Serve the soup in warmed bowls with a big sprinkling of chopped parsley and warm, crusty bread. Jó étvágyat!

— Sandra

The Cabot family live and work in Lanmore, outside Westport. Fresh, seasonal foods are their passion, from country markets to growing, making and selling. They love cooking and eating at the kitchen table, while Redmond and Sandra are kept on their toes with children Penny and Louis. Here they share their favourite recipes.