I spotted this Goulash recipe on the goodfoodchannel.co.uk website and was immediately attracted to it because of the shortness of its ingredients list. Now I know there are those amongst you who will tut and say "it's not authentic!", but the way I see it, Goulash has been made for so many years by so many different ethnicities of people, that it's probably like my favourite Cottage Pie, in that there are many ways of producing what amounts to the same thing.
So let me say from the word go, that with this recipe I wasn't looking to make an "authentic" Eastern European Goulash, but a Goulash-style beef stew that would fill empty corners and warm the cockles of our hearts. After all, with the snow that's been blowing around our garden, our hearts have needed their cockles warming from time to time!
Now because the recipe uses beef and because of hubby's dislike of even remotely chewy meat, I decided to use the slow cooker. As a result, the recipe has been somewhat re-written with that in mind, but the ingredients stayed (almost) the same. The original recipe can be found here if you are interested but don't want to use a slow cooker, otherwise, read on!
Alongside the Goulash, I serve white rice and garden peas - I just added the frozen peas to the rice saucepan with 5 minutes to go. If you're going to do the same, allow the full five minutes as the ice of the peas reduces the heat of the boiling water and you need time for it to regain a full boil in order to finish cooking both peas and rice.
I also served some roasted carrots, beetroot, radishes and onion. These had been tossed in sunflower oil and seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground pepper before being added to a moderate oven for 35-45 minutes' roasting. It was the first time I'd ever roasted fresh beetroot and I was jolly impressed by the flavour, which - perhaps not surprisingly - went very well with the Goulash. None of us were impressed by the roasted radishes though, as the roasting appeared to concentrate the cabbagey flavour in them, rather than the sweetness or pepperiness. I don't think we'll be doing roast radishes again, somehow!
Along with the lemon soured cream - which made a pleasant change from plain soured cream and provided a lovely acidity which balanced both the Goulash and the sweetness of the roasted vegetables, the whole combination made a very acceptable Sunday dinner. I know that I was completely stuffed by the end of it - and didn't start to get peckish again until breakfast time the next morning. All of which, I consider a real result.
Hubby declared himself rather underwhelmed by the flavours, however I suspect he was anticipating a more pronounced smoked paprika flavour. Smoked paprika is one of his favourites, yet I'm not so keen on it and had tamed the recipe by the use of 1 teaspoonful of sweet smoked paprika along with 1 teaspoonful of hot smoked paprika. Although the original recipe doesn't say what type of smoked paprika to use, I know that hubby was expecting more of the hot version - which could account for his being underwhelmed. He enjoyed the meal - loved the roasted beetroot - and was perfectly satisfied with the Goulash, just expected rather more from it than it delivered. Son and heir thought the Goulash was "lush" and the lot disappeared - including the roast beetroot, which was a major surprise.
Personally, I really liked the end result of this recipe. It didn't compromise on flavour and the use of fresh tomatoes instead of tinned tomatoes was a real revelation to me. I think I'll be swapping those two in future recipes - which will be interesting, no doubt! The red peppers were definitely there, but didn't overwhelm the flavour profile (for once). So often, when you use red pepper in a dish, it becomes the predominant flavour. I think because they were chargrilled peppers from a jar instead of fresh red peppers - and only 50g of them - it made all the difference.
All in all, a great cockle-warmer!
SLOW COOKER BEEF GOULASH (serves 4)
750g beef brisket, trimmed of fat and cut into chunks
1 heaped tbsp plain flour
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp rapeseed or sunflower oil - or any combination of the two
2 onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tomatoes, seeds removed and roughly chopped
50g chargrilled red peppers from a jar, rinsed if in vinegar, sliced into strips
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
zest of half a lemon
1 tbsp lemon juice
1-200ml soured cream.
1. In the morning of the day you're planning on eating the Goulash, place the flour and seasonings into a large plastic bag, then add the beef cubes. Seal the bag and give it a good shake to toss the beef in the seasoned flour.
2. Pour the oil into a large frying pan and place over a moderate heat to bring up to temperature. Test whether the oil is hot enough, by touching one corner of a piece of beef to the oil. If it frizzles and fries, the oil is ready. Add (gently!) the beef to the frying pan and reserve any remaining flour.
3. Brown the beef to a stage where it is just beginning to caramelise, on at least three sides. Using a slotted spoon, decant into the slow cooker, leaving any surplus oil behind. Switch the slow cooker on, using the "low" setting if you're wanting to take all day about cooking the Goulash, or "high" if you've only got 4-5 hours.
4. Add the onions and fry, stirring frequently, until softened and golden. Add the garlic and turn the heat down. Cook for another couple of minutes, taking care not to let the garlic burn.
5. Add the tomatoes and continue to fry, until the tomato pieces have softened and begun to break up. Add the paprika and the leftover seasoned flour and stir to combine. Cook for another minute or so.
6. Add the beef stock gently, stirring all the time to combine it with the pan's contents easily and not wind up with lumps.
7. Add the sliced peppers and stir to combine. Bring back up to a simmer, then decant the lot into the slow cooker and give everything a good stir.
8. Cook for the requisite time (4-5 hours on high, or 9-10 hours on low). An hour or so before you are due to serve, taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary and if the sauce is rather too thin, cook with the lid half on/half off for an hour, to reduce the liquid. However, if you're doing this, you need to keep an eye on it!
Serve with the parsley sprinkled over and the lemon soured cream beside.