As colder days arrive, many of us develop a craving for hot, hearty soups. Goulash, the Hungarian national dish, is exactly what one needs to warm up from head to toe.
This soup originated in the ninth century, among the cattle herdsmen of Hungary. As they drove herds of cattle from Hungary to the markets of Vienna and Venice, they prepared this spicy meal on the way.
As the cowboys guided the cattle toward the meat markets, some cows were slaughtered en route for the men’s own consumption. The meat was flavored with Hungary’s signature spice: paprika.
Paprika is made of air-dried chili pepper. It was initially brought to Europe from the Americas by Spanish and Portuguese explorers, who called it pimenton. The Spanish were the first to smoke it in the 16th century, bringing out an intense earthy flavor
Paprika spread from the Iberian Peninsula to Africa and Asia. The Ottomans, who controlled the Balkans, introduced paprika to Central Europe. Paprika derives its name from the Croatian word papar, “pepper.” Although it is considered a Hungarian spice, paprika was not widely used in Hungary until the late 19th century.
To cook goulash, the meat was browned in a cauldron with onions, salt, and smoked paprika. Water, garlic, caraway seeds, parsley roots, carrots, sweet peppers, tomatoes, celery, and potatoes were then added. White wine or vinegar was poured into the soup just before serving. Sometimes, a dough of egg and flour was mixed. Small pieces of dough were pinched and added to the soup to make tiny egg noodles.
Classic Hungarian Goulash
Adapted from Budapest by Locals.
- 1 lb. cubed beef
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon smoked Hungarian paprika
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon powdered caraway seeds
- 2 onions
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 parsnip
- 2 carrots
- 3 potatoes
- 2 tomatoes
- 2 bell peppers
- 2 stalks of celery
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups flour
- Peel and chop up the vegetables.
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot.
- Add the onions and sauté until golden-brown.
- Stir in the paprika.
- Pour the beef cubes into the pot, cooking until brown.
- Add the salt, pepper, bay leaf, garlic, and caraway seed powder.
- Cover with water, and bring to a boil.
- Simmer the soup for 90 minutes.
- Add the potatoes, parsnips, carrots, and celery to the pot.
- Correct the seasoning, and pour in some more water if necessary.
- Stir in the tomatoes and bell peppers.
- Mix the eggs, flour, a teaspoon of salt, and about 1/3 cup of water.
- Raise the flame and bring the soup to a boil.
- Pinch small pieces of the egg dough and throw them into the pot.
- Cook for 5 minutes.