Hungary’s national dish – a hearty feast of tender beef chunks and root vegetables flavoured with local paprika – has been sustaining everyone from Magyar cattle-herders to restaurant-goers for generations.

Goulash was the staple meal of herders who drove cattle on Hungary’s plains as far back as the 9th century. The herdsmen would cook the stew in iron kettles over a fire, supposedly using animals that couldn’t make the trip, until it was almost dry so it could be stored in sheep’s-stomach bags and later reconstituted with water. Paprika was not considered a crucial ingredient until the Turks introduced the spice to the country in the 18th century.

You’ll need
1 tbs vegetable oil
2 medium onions, peeled and
500g (1lb) stewing or braising
beef, cubed
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and
3 tbs Hungarian paprika
1 tsp caraway seeds, ground
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2–3 cups (500–750mL) of
400g (14oz) potatoes, peeled
and cubed
3 medium carrots, peeled and
Salt to taste
Crusty bread or fresh egg
noodles to serve

Cooking Method
1 Heat the oil in a heavy-based casserole pot. Add the onions and cook until soft and golden.
2 Add the beef and stir-fry until the meat is no longer pink and any liquid has evaporated.
3 Add the garlic, paprika, caraway seeds and cayenne pepper and fry for a few minutes to coat the beef. Add enough water to just cover the meat. Bring to a boil.
4 Add the potatoes and carrots.
5 Turn down the heat to a simmer and cook the goulash for at least an hour or until the beef is tender and the potatoes and carrots are cooked.
6 Season the soup with salt and more caraway as required.
7 Serve with crusty bread or fresh egg noodles.
TIP An easy dish to replicate at home but do try to use Hungarian paprika, which gives the dish its characteristic warmth and bittersweet taste. Chop the meat and vegetables to the same approximate sizes for even cooking.

Tasting notes
Long, cold winters in Hungary require nourishing slow-cooked foods such as goulash, which goes perfectly with noodles or dumplings. Not to be confused with that other Hungarian staple pörkölt (a dry-fried meat stew), a bowl of goulash is a one-pot wonder of beef and vegetables that becomes a complete meal when cooked with egg noodles called csipetke. Unlike the smoky Spanish version or the mild, generic versions found in most supermarkets, the Hungarian paprika lends an intense red-capsicum flavour and deep-red colour to the dish. It comes in mild, sweet, semisweet and hot varieties, depending on the type of capsicum, but even the hot versions will have a more complex aroma and taste than cayenne or chilli powder.

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