On Saturday evening I should have been in Milan, planning exploits related to the large Italian food fair, Identita Golose. Instead, I found myself trapped in London, delayed by an unreliable train. I missed my flight by a minute, and British Airways said that they could put me on the next flight for £269 (!). As it turned out, snow had started to fall, so there wasn’t much chance of me getting there anyway.
That’s life. I found myself instead of being in Milan, eating a chicken milanese in the airport, where I waited for hours to see if I could go. I returned home a little dejected and thought, well I can try tomorrow and if that fails, I will make the best of my time and cook something delicious. Which I did when I inevitably resigned myself to staying at home.
There was snow everywhere by the time I got home that night. Lots of impromptu snowball fights by drunk folks on their way home from the pub, and lopsided snowmen birthed to the world by more tipsy people. The snowballs whooshing over my head made me nervous, I was just about balanced on my slippy boots as I dragged my polka dot suitcase home through the snow.
The next day I was prepared however, and donned my bright yellow wellies to make the trip to the butcher. I was going to make goulash. I have 3 different Hungarian paprikas in my cupboard that I bought when I was in Croatia, they are right next door and eat a lot of goulash there too.
I kept my recipe simple, staying very close to a traditional Hungarian recipe, and gave it a long time on the hob until it was tender and rich. I strayed by adding wine, as I felt the stew need more richness and body to match the snowy day outside. The csipetke – homemade noodle/dumplings cooked in the goulash – were so comforting and delicious, you have to make these too.
Notes on the recipe: This takes a long time, so I would heartily recommend you make double, the leftovers will taste even better the next day. I push mine for three hours, lots of other recipes say two, but I don’t think the beef is tender enough after two. It is essential that you get both good paprika and good beef. I used chuck steak but shin of beef would be great here too. For the paprika, Londoners can head north to Haringey where there is Hungarian paprika a plenty (I used to live there – try the Hungarian shop Paprika) but I am sure places like The Spice Shop will supply too. Non-Londoners, there is the world of Hungarian paprika online :)
Recipe: Spiced Rich Goulash with Csipetke Dumplings
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 3 hours
Serves: 2 (but feel free to double)
500g chuck steak, diced
50g plain flour, seasoned lightly
3 tbsp good Hungarian paprika
1 red onion, cut in half and finely sliced
2 fat cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
175ml full bodied red wine
2 bay leaves
a couple of sprigs of thyme
some oil/butter/lard to fry – I used Iberico lard which I happened to have in the cupboard
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp water
pinch of sea salt
Add the seasoned flour to the beef and make sure each piece is covered. Dust off the excess and fry the beef in two batches until browned on all sides, making sure that there is plenty of space for each piece, otherwise you will stew it and it will get soggy. Remove from the pan and leave to the side.
Gently sauté the onions over a low – medium heat for about 15 minutes until soft but not brown. Add the garlic for a further minute.
Add the beef and red wine and turn up the heat. Reduce the red wine by about half before adding the water, paprika, thyme and bay leaves. Bring to the boil and reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook gently over a low heat for 2 hours.
In the last hour of the beef cooking (above) prepare the csipetke by first sifting the flour, add the salt and the beaten egg and combine. Add as much water as is needed to hold it together without getting too wet (2 tbsp was right for me). Knead for about 10 minutes until soft and pliable – it is easier and quicker to do this in a mixer with a dough hook if you have one. Cover with cling film and leave to sit at room temperature for half an hour.
After the half hour remove the lid from the beef and check the water levels, it should be quite soupy. If the cooking liquid is thick and there isn’t much of it, add more. It should be fine as you have kept a lid on it. Taste and check the paprika levels, now is to the time to add more if it is not strong enough for your taste.
Add the carrots and cook for half an hour before adding the potatoes and the csipetke. To make the csipetke, all you do is pinch of pieces of the dough and add to the soup, where they will cook in the broth for 15 minutes or so. The potatoes should take approximately the same amount of time. Taste to check, when they are light and no longer doughy they are done.
Season to taste and serve hot in bowls (without the bay leaves and the thyme) with a punchy red wine along side it.