Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Multi-Cultural Goulash

Another wee blog absence has gone by...the last few weeks have been filled to the brim with 'important things to do' and weekends that disappear in a flash.

One such weekend was spent back in Brno eating platefuls of dumplings and meat with my favourite 'granat' pivo to wash it all down.

I hadn't noticed how much I'd missed Czech food (despite years of moderately good-natured kvetching) until I arrived, and my hosts asked if I was hungry. I replied, nope, I had řízek (schnitzel) for lunch before the flight. In Italy? Up went the eyebrows...Ummm, yes, I confess, I made řízek for lunch in Italy. At least I didn't smash it between bread slices and bring it on the plane with me à la traditional-Czech-travel-snack.

And what should happen when I'm back in Rome, in my kitchen, staring at some choice pieces of beef stew meat I'd just picked up? Yes, goulash.

Yet this is not just any goulash. This is a trans-national goulash. Using a smoked Spanish paprika, marjoram in the Czech style, but served on polenta like in northern Italy. (Note: the American tradition of tossing in elbow macaroni will never taint a goulash from my kitchen - but anything else goes!)

Just like any goulash with strict country origins, it's quickly prepared, with a long simmer, and the flavour improves on the second day. Last year I fiddled with getting a traditional Czech recipe right and came up with this one. It was complete with homemade bread dumplings, which I must say that while polenta is a nice twist, nothing pairs with goulash like dumplings.

Some weekend, when I am truly Czech nostalgic, I will figure out a way to make one of the best street sweets on the planet - trdelník - a crispy yet soft tube of dough cooked on a hot iron and rolled in sugar, cinnamon, or nuts. When warm and fresh, it can't be beaten.

Continue to Recipe...

Recipe: My Multi-Cultural Goulash
Serves 3
Time 30 mins (plus 90 mins simmer time)

2 Tb butter
1 large onion, (cut in half and thinly sliced into half circles)
500g stew quality beef chunks
1/2 cup (115 ml) red wine
1/2 Tb balsamic vinegar
1 Tb smoked Spanish paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp marjoram
1 cup beef broth / water
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 Tb lemon juice


1) Heat butter in a large pot, toss in onion and slowly cook 5-8 mins until soft.

2) Push onions to one side a bit, and toss in the meat, salt/pepper to taste, and cook until all sides are browned. Add in the red wine, balsamic vinegar, paprika, cumin, marjoram and coat the meat and onions well. Add in the broth/water and garlic. Simmer for 90 mins, adding more broth/water as needed. About 20 minutes before it's finished, add in the lemon zest and juice.

3) Serve on either a bed of creamy polenta, or slices of the ready-prepared kind from the supermarket that have been gently fried in a pan with olive oil.

When reheating to serve the next day (highly recommended), you will find that it will have thickened, so toss on the stove on low and add a bit more water/broth.

- Jo

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