Introduction: Authentic Hungarian Goulash Soup
It was a rainy day today, it felt almost like a day in October, so it was the perfect time for a hearty goulash soup. Goulash is kind of a national dish here, mentioned in all travel guides as a must to try and served in most restaurants in the touristic part of the city. Every family has its own recipe with slight variations but with the same main ingredients.
First of all, we need to make clear what is meant by goulash as there are three different dishes the Hungarian name of which is normally translated as goulash into English. The common feature is that they all contain sweet paprika (I mean the red powder) and meat. Goulash is used for “pörkölt” which is a slow – cooked thick meat stew, it’s close friend, “paprikás” is quite similar but it is made with a bit more water and is thickened with sour cream and flour, sometimes. Today, I will show you how to prepare the third one, “gulyásleves” or goulash soup, As you may realize, this is where Hungarian name actually contains the word goulash, which - just for fun fact - means herdsman.
Step 1: You'll Need
- 1 kg beef for stews (chunk or round)
- 2 big onions
- 3 peppers
- 3 big carrots
- 3 parsley roots
- 1 small celeriac
- 5 garlic cloves
- 2 tomatoes
- 3-4 large potatoes
Spices and herbs:
- 3 heaped teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (this is not commonly used, but gives an extra added flavor)
- sea salt to taste (2 tablespoons approximately)
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- parsley (small bunch)
- celery leaves of 1 stalk
- 1 heaped teaspoon carraway seed
- 3 tablespoons lard (may be replaced with vegetable oil)
- 3 - 4 liters of water (or beef stock)
- cutting board
- large pot
- vegetable peeler
- hand blender (optional)
Step 2: Prepping Meat
Start off by trimming the meat, then cut it into bite-sized bits. Traditionally meat is cut into bigger chunks like 3 cm by 3 cm, but I prefer to cut it into smaller pieces (1.5 cm by 1.5 cm). Add a bit of salt.
Step 3: Prepping Veggies 1.
These are the vegetables that we will start cooking with and will form the base of the soup:
1. Peel and dice the onions.
2. Peel the celeriac and chop half of it finely (set aside the other half)
3. Remove the seeds together with the stem from the pepper then dice it.
4. Chop the garlic.
5. Dice the tomatoes.
Step 4: Prepping Veggies 2.
1. Cut both ends of the carrots and parsley root, cut them into 1 cm wide circles.
2. Peel and dice the potatoes.
3. Dice the other half of the celeriac.
4. Wash parsley and celery leafs.
Potatoes tend to get brown if they are cut therefore I always keep them (and all the other veggies) in a bowl filled with ice cold water until further use.
Step 5: Brown Beef
Heat a tablespoon of lard in a large pot, and brown the beef in small batches. The key is that the beef chunks should fit comfortably in one layer into the pot and you should just stir them once or twice, otherwise it would steam rather than brown. Don't cook them, when they are nice and brown all over, remove them from the pot and get on with the next batch and so on. You may need to add a little lard in between.
Set the browned chunks aside.
Step 6: Saute Veggies
When you have finished with the meat, add another tablespoon of lard, add the onions, the pepper, the finely chopped celeriac, sauté for 8 minutes, then add the chopped garlic and carry on for another 2-3 minutes until they soften and the onion gets translucent.
Step 7: Spice It!
Add carraway seeds.
This is when you have to pay attention, as sweet paprika gets burnt easily and that would result in a bitter taste. In order to avoid it, pour about 500 ml water into a jug and place it close to the pot. Add half of the sweet paprika into the pot, give it a quick stir so that veggies are coated, then pour the water on top. Add tomatoes and cook for 20 minutes.
Here comes the non-traditional part of this recipe, at this point I like to blend what's in the pot, this way we get a thicker soup without adding flour as suggested in some recipes, and there will be no bits of onion floating around.
So, blend it with a hand blender if you wish, but you may skip this step.
Step 8: Finish the Goulash
Pour the rest of the water, bring it to boil. Add the meat chunks, the rest of sweet paprika, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Beef needs longer cooking then vegetables. Check the meat after 30 minutes, then check regularly. When you feel that it is almost tender, add the vegetables (celeriac, parsley root, carrots, potatoes) and cook for another 15-20 minutes until the vegetables are soft but are not falling apart. Finally, add the herbs and cook for 2 more minutes.
Step 9: Enjoy!
Goulash soup is normally served with a slice of bread, many people like to eat it hot with chili. It is a rich soup, it is often followed by only some dessert like pancakes instead of a complete second course.
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