Comfort food and books for comfort
By Christina Stock
Two Sundays ago, we introduced you to the favorite Austrian pancakes “Kaiserschmarrn” and Empress Sisi, who — against the will of her husband — became Queen of Hungary. Today, we remain in the same era, but concentrate on the fierce Hungarians, their will for independence and how their favorite food, Gulás, came to the U.S.
Gulás, or in English goulash is known as Hungary’s national dish, which became popular around the world. However, what Americans think of as goulash recipe is far from it’s origin.
The word gulás in Hungarian means shepherd, a name connected to the roaming cowboys on the wide open grasslands, called Puszta.
During the height of the Austrian Empire, huge cattle herds were the base of feeding the military. The shepherds were prohibited by threat of death to touch any of the cattle. A fear so deeply ingrained in people that beef didn’t become popular until the mid-50s. The original protein in gulás used was goat and it was a soup.
I encountered the original recipe on my first trip to Hungary in 1987. Hungary only achieved its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. I traveled with my bosses as part of a company scouting party, working for a company interested in a cooperation with the Hungarians. We were to write a fun travel program to highlight the culture and activities. Of course, only a few westerners had traveled to the eastern countries at that time — we all were clueless about what to expect, time was an issue, and that’s how I ended up in the middle of a Hungarian wedding in the Puszta, sampling real goulash/gulás for the first time.
It was not a real wedding, but arranged just for us, with music, dances and the famous kettle gulás. The soup simmered for hours in huge cast-iron kettles over open fire, reminding me of the chuck wagons accompanying the cattle drives of John Chisum. Their standard food was beans, the Puszta cowboys had their gulás.
One of the biggest issues Hungary had dealing with the Austrian Empire in the late 1800s was the loss of its heritage. The Austrians demanded they speak German, putting Austrians in charge of official positions or Austrian-friendly Hungarians. As part of a civil disobedience and rebellion, Hungarian patriotism and products became fashionable, which carried to the German kingdoms and duchies. (Germany didn’t exist at that time, but was annexed to the Austrian Empire as Hungary was.)
Of this cultural rebellion, goulash was the most unusual ambassador. The recipe for it spread like its main secret ingredient, paprika.
The powdery spice is made out of a unique pepper, similar in looks to the poblano, but sweet like a bell pepper.
However, the recipe changed with every translation. The gulás I was served that day on the Puszta was a bowl of broth, the traditional first course. The meat and vegetables were kept warm and served as a second course with horseradish sauce and a glass of sweet golden Tokaj wine, another specialty of Hungary.
Growing up in Germany, I only knew the German version of the recipe in which most of the vegetables are left out, the goat meat was replaced with beef chunks, lots of sweet regular bell peppers added and instead of water, red wine became the liquid base. It became a stew, served with mashed potatoes or wide egg noodles.
Immigrants brought the German Goulasch to the U.S. where it encountered a new transformation. The egg noodles became elbow macaroni and ground beef replaced the beef chunks. No wine, of course, and it became a comfort dish for kids and adults in the U.S.
What connects all of these recipes throughout history is Hungarians’ spice: Paprika.
The American goulash recipe is well-known and recipes are easily found online. Not as easily found is the original recipe from Hungary and the German version, which we share here.
The book that fits to all these recipe varieties is an anthology of award-winning, USA TODAY and The New York Times Bestselling authors, such as Vision’s author S.E. Smith. Smith’s newest short story “Heart of the Cat: Serafin Warriors Book 3” is featured in this anthology, which features science fiction romance stories.
Just as paprika comes in different flavors, “Pets in Space 3” has a variety of sweet and spicy stories — some are not appropriate for children. There are alien fur balls meddling with the love stories of their owners, special military cats and wolves, you name it, they exist somewhere in outer space in the imagination of the authors. There are comedic, drama and action stories.
Other authors featured are Anna Hackett, Ruby Lionsdrake, Veronica Scott, Pauline Baird Jones, Carol Van Natta, Tiffany Roberts, Alexis Glynn Latner, E.D. Walker, JC Hay and Kyndra Hatch.
The book is available for a limited time as ebook; the first two are no longer available.
Proceeds of this anthology go to hero-dogs.org, which provides service dogs to veterans.
For more information, visit sesmithfl.com/embrace-passion-pets-space-3.
1 lb. beef chuck (or goat if you want to stay authentic)
3 medium size carrots (in chunks – same size as the beef chuck)
2 medium size parsnips (in chunks – same size as the carrots)
1 large onion (chopped)
1-2 cloves of garlic (chopped)
Salt to taste
1 ½ tbsp. Hungarian paprika (Szeged if you are able to find it, but you can also use other high quality paprika — in that case double the portion)
1 red bell pepper (chopped)
1/2 tsp. caraway seeds
1 bay leaf
1/4 c. lard or vegetable oil
Enough water to make the vegetables “swim” (depends on the pot you use, the deeper the pot, the better)
Cut meat to 1 inch pieces and set aside.
Heat the lard or oil in a heavy bottom saucepan. Add the onions and sauté until translucent.
Important: remove the pan from fire, add Hungarian paprika (it tends to burn and smoke if it is too long in a hot pan and then you have to start all over), add the meat, stir together and season with salt. (Less salt is better, you can always add more salt later on.)
Add caraway seeds, the pepper, garlic and the bay leaf, fill with water, stir all together, cover and let cook on a low fire, adding more water as needed.
Adjust fire so the goulash simmers very gently, and let cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is tender. (For vegetarians, just leave the meat and lard out and add potatoes instead.
2 lb. beef chuck (cubed in 1 inch pieces)
2 large red bell pepper
2 large yellow bell pepper
2 large sweet onions (in German Gemüsezwiebeln)
3 cloves of garlic (crushed)
4 tbsp. Hungarian or hot paprika (it says hot, but it really isn’t, it just has a more intense flavor – there is a certain brand in grocery stores in Roswell you can use)
2 bay leafs
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 glasses of a dry red wine (not sweet)*
2 cups of beef broth (or vegetable broth)
salt and — if you like it a little more spicy — cayenne pepper
Heat the oil in a deep pot and fry the beef chuck until it is brown. Take the beef out and toss with the paprika, salt and pepper.
Add the onions into the pot and cook until translucent, not brown, return the meat to the pot and pour in the red wine and broth.
Make sure to stir up anything that is stuck to the pot, so nothing burns. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir.
Cook on low heat until the meat is tender 2-3 hrs, or put the entire stew into a crockpot.
Serve with wide egg noodles, mashed potatoes or dumplings.
* during the long cooking process all alcohol will evaporate, so you can also serve it to children. However, if you have a guest who has issues with alcoholism, the flavor can trigger a relapse.