{Comfort Food} Hungarian Goulash

When we first moved to this city we discovered a cozy little restaurant called Marienbad, where they serve Central European  food. Dimly lit with wood paneling and a lit fireplace in the center, swords and other old items decorate the walls, and along one side of the restaurant a pub style bar (called Chaucer’s Pub) with lines of beer taps and glasses. The building, dating back to 1854, was the original home of Josiah Blackburn’s “London Free Press”. It served as the Queen’s Hotel from 1871 to 1920 and became the home of the “Farmer’s Advocate” from 1921 to 1965. They hold Murder Mystery evenings too, which is a really neat idea and sounds like a lot of fun.

Our favourite dishes were the Hungarian Goulash soup, Chicken Paprikash, Jäger Schnitzel and Beef Tartar. Oh and the Wenceslas Cheese for an appetizer was a must every time! Its a lightly crusted Edam cheese served with tartar sauce. We haven’t eaten there in many many years and looking at the menu just now made me really want to go back. How can I resist a dish called “Sausage Platter”?? They also have an awesome selection of European beers on tap like Hacker Pschorr and Leffe Blonde, which are some of my favourites.

I think I’ve mentioned before that we don’t really eat out much, and the reason is because we are pretty picky about what we eat and where it comes from. So I try to recreate my restaurant favourites at home. It sure takes a lot of trial and error to make things similar, but I think I’ve come pretty darn close. I’ve made the goulash soup, chicken paprikash and jäger (hunter) schnitzel. Jäger schnitzel is amazing, it has a wine mushroom cream sauce thats poured over the breaded fried schnitzel. AMAZING.

One night after our dinner at Marienbad I noticed a cookbook for sale as we were leaving called “London’s Best II”. It features recipes from different restaurants in the city. Pretty cool idea. I bought it strictly because there was a recipe from Marienbad for their goulash soup. Yay! I could make it at home with no trial and error!

The first time I made it I felt that it was missing something, and then I realized that the recipe doesn’t mention potatoes and I totally thought the restaurant version had little cubes of potato (when I look at the menu though it says dumplings – so maybe my memory is not as good as I think it is). So I added potatoes the next time and it was perfect. So now that change is penciled in my little cookbook. I have to thank Marienbad though, for opening my eyes to some really interesting European food that I had never even heard of before. P.S. Hungarian food is flippin’ amazing. I will need to post my recipe for chicken paprikash some time. To. Die. For.

The Hungarians have their own version of paprika. The stuff at the store, simply labeled “Paprika” can be either Hungarian, Californian, or South American, and it is sometimes mixed with other chiles like cayenne. This paprika tends to be neither sweet nor hot and is a suitable garnish for things like deviled eggs or wherever you want some colour. Hungarian paprika come as hot or sweet and has a really intense, rich, sweet red pepper flavour. (Info taken from TheKitchn) I think Hungarian Paprika is a necessity for this goulash, and the paprikash as well. When you use a lot of paprika like in these recipes, its important to have a good quality spice, because the flavour really stands out.

The days here have been getting shorter and cooler, and the leaves are starting to fall from the trees. All I crave is comfort food, knitted slippers and a blanket… as I write this with a knitted blanket on my lap, slippers on my feet and a warm mug of tea in my hands! This recipe is perfect for the crisp autumn weather that has arrived. Spicy, sweet, hearty, and most important of all… warm.

Hungarian Goulash

Recipe adapted from London’s Best II

2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 lb stewing beef, cut into 1″ cubes
1 lb onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
about 3 medium potatoes, diced
3 cups beef stock
2 cups canned tomatoes, crushed
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp oregano (I used Italian oregano given to me, grown and dried by my Mom!)
2 tbsp Hungarian sweet paprika (You could probably use hot and omit the cayenne pepper)
salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

In a heavy pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium high-heat and quickly brown the beef. Remove and set aside. In the same pot sauté the onions and garlic in the oil until golden brown, stirring often.

Add the beef, crushed tomatoes, potatoes, and beef stock and stir well. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to simmer (I turn mine down in between low and medium – but much closer to low).

Add the caraway seeds, marjoram, oregano and Hungarian paprika. Simmer for about 1 – 2 hours until meat is very tender. Add the salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste.

Serve with pasta, bread dumplings or potatoes. I like it especially with crusty sourdough bread or toasted slices of bread drizzled with olive oil and rubbed with garlic.