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Hungarian Cowboy Stew

IMG_6324In Prague, I ate a spectacular venison goulash with Carlsbad dumplings at a cozy inn by the river. Goulash is everywhere in Prague–the Czech equivalent of a burger.IMG_6318

Goulash and chili have a lot in common. The Hungarian word gulyás means cowboy. The dish is named after the cowboys who prepared it while they herded cattle on the Great Hungarian Plain or Puszta in the 19th century. Paprika peppers were introduced to Hungary by the Ottoman Turks in the 1520s.

There are more than a dozen varieties of paprika in European supermarkets. In Germany, I cooked a fiery beef goulash with Hungarian hot “rosen” paprika, This goulash tasted nearly identical to New Mexican Red Chile with Beef. The main difference in technique is that goulash is thickened almost entirely by caramelized onions.

Here’s a recipe:

Spicy Hungarian Goulash

Sweet Hungarian paprika is widely available in the United States. It is also increasingly common to find Hungarian hot paprika. You can substitute 2 tablespoons sweet and 2 tablespoons hot paprika for the “half-sharf” in this recipe. (Sharf means sharp, or hot and spicy, in German.)

Serves 4

1 lb. beef stew meat
Salt and pepper to taste
4 medium onions
2 Roma tomatoes
1 red pepper (Hungarian type preferred)
4 tablespoons Hungarian “half sharf” paprika
3 tablespoons tallow, lard or vegetable oil

Cut the beef into half-inch dice removing any obvious ligament and season with salt and pepper. Peel and chop onions from end to end into half moon-shaped slices. Chop the tomatoes and red peppers, keeping each separate.

Heat half the fat or oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat and fry the onions stirring occasionally until soft and golden in color, 15 to 20 minutes. At the same time to a skillet over medium-high heat, add the other half of the fat and brown the meat in small batches. Reserve each batch of cooked beef on a plate.

When the onions are soft and golden, add the paprika, stirring well to combine. Add the meat, the chopped tomatoes and peppers and stir together. Deglaze the skillet in which the meat was cooked with a cup of water, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom and add the water and remaining fat to the onion mixture.

Simmer covered, checking often to make sure the stew doesn’t stick to the pan. Add water was as necessary. Continue simmering until the meat is ‘fall off the bone’ tender and the vegetables begin to dissolve into a thick sauce. Serve over noodles.

Goulash tastes better reheated the next day and also freezes well for up to two months.

Suet Dumplings for Goulash

Ask the butcher at the supermarket to save you some suet next time he cuts beef.

4 ounces self-raising flour, plus a little extra for dusting
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 ounces shredded suet
Salt and fresh black pepper

Mix the flour and shredded suet in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and add enough cold water (6-8 tablespoonfuls) to make a smooth elastic dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured board and divide it into 12 dumplings. Gently drop them in the goulash, do not hold them under, just let them float. Put the lid back on the goulash and simmer for another 25 minutes or until the dumplings have risen. Put a couple of dumplngs in each bowl as you serve the goulash.

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