Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Ethnic Diva ...

In an effort to embrace my heritage, or at least one quarter of it, I purchased The Hungarian Cookbook sometime back in the 1980's. Buried amid scores of others on my kitchen shelves, it has largely gone unused. I don't think I've opened the book in the last 15 years. And even then, I've only ever made one recipe from it: Goulash Soup.

Yesterday's wicked weather demanded an equally extreme dish. Something rich, hot, savory and filling: a dish with which to thaw the husband after his trip down our bitterly windy block. Again, I haven't ventured past page 6 of the book, why mess with success - even if its decades old success? I wanted something bold in flavor and spicy enough to wake up our winter-dulled palates ... I could not have made a better choice.

Goulash Soup or Gulyas Leves (gu-yahsh le-vesh in Hungarian):
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. lean beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • generous grinding of fresh black pepper
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. of caraway seeds, crushed in a mortar and pestle or with the back of a spoon
  • 1 1/2 tsp. good quality sweet paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked, hot paprika
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 cups low-sodium beef stock or broth
  • one 14.5 ounce can of petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 medium to large green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • pinch of cayenne pepper, optional
  • 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 thick wedge of lemon
  • chopped fresh parsley for garnish
  • some cooked Csipetke (pinched noodles) - recipe to follow tomorrow
Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy-bottomed, non-reactive soup or stock pot and when it is hot but not smoking, add the beef. Saute, stirring often until browned on all sides, drain the excess fat from the pan and add a tiny bit more olive oil. Add the onions, shallots, garlic, a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper and saute, stirring as needed until the onion is translucent. Add the crushed caraway seeds, sweet paprika, smoked paprika and carrots and stir to combine. Saute for one minute. Add the vegetable broth, beef stock, diced tomatoes, green pepper, cayenne pepper and a large bay leaf, stirring well to combine. Bring the soup to the boil over high heat, then cover and reduce the heat to simmer. Allow the soup to simmer, covered, for one hour.

Add the diced potatoes to the soup, squeeze the juice from the wedge of lemon into the pot, stir and taste for seasoning. If needed you may add a bit more salt and pepper. Cover and allow the soup to simmer for 25 -30 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked and the beef is fork tender. Once finished, the soup can be kept, covered, at a low simmer until needed. To serve, place some cooked csipetke in the bottom of a large soup bowl and ladle the goulash soup over the noodles. Garnish with some chopped parsley, serve and enjoy! As written this soup will serve approximately 5 - 6.

I've made several changes in the book's recipe. I upped the amount of paprika, added the smoked for heat and interest, and because I was craving something on the spicy side - I threw in a hefty pinch of cayenne pepper while the soup was simmering. Carrots were not included in the original recipe ... though I can't imagine why. I think they're essential, and I might even up the ante next time by adding some cubed yellow turnip to boot.

You can well imagine that I opted not to go with the lard, as suggested in the book. After I recovered from my faint, I went with the olive oil for sauteing instead. Good choice.

Another good choice was my decision to go all out and make the homemade noodles for the soup. I know, I can hear some of you groaning now ... no, you don't have to make the noodles ... but you should. They're well worth the effort and the effort is minimal. I'll tell you all about it ... tomorrow. For now, rest easy in the knowledge you could certainly serve the soup with some cooked barley or ditalini pasta - and, frankly, its good enough all on its own. Pair it with a snappy green salad, a crusty whole-grain loaf and a better winter meal I cannot imagine. I hope you'll try it!

Bon appetit!

P.S. - Edited to add that I'm submitting this soup to the always wonderful Souper Sundays event on Kahakai Kitchen. Be sure to stop by Deb's terrific blog for a taste of the best soups from around the web each and every Sunday!


Tracy said...

This recipe sounds great and the photo looks delicious. You are a real soldier, making homemade noodles!

Dianne1216 said...

Hey Diva! Gotta love the Hungarians...they know how to eat. I have another Hungarian cookbook recommendation for you. The recipe for Goulash in here is extraordinary and I even make a tofu version...haha.


Let me know what you think if you get it. It's a beautiful book.

Deborah said...

That was worth waiting for. Looks great!

Jeanie said...

Diva, it looks great! I would add the carrots as well, and I like the suggestion to spice it up with the cayenne. Can't wait to see how the noodles are done.

stephchows said...

I'm 1/4 Hungarian too :) I'm a huge fan of making speztle noodles for soups my Nana taught me to make :) so good!

Anonymous said...

Great snowed in project...and tasty. You lucked out that it was bad weather. Makes the soup taste even better!

Sophie said...

I have quite a few cookbooks that get neglected :). This one sounds like a keeper, especially with this stewy dish!

The Diva on a Diet said...

Tracy - thanks! Making noodles seemed like a good way to spend the snow day. :) They're not difficult at all ... as you'll see tomorrow.

Dianne - thanks so much for the recommendation. I will def. check it out! One of the reason I haven't used this book more often is that its not a great cookbook. The instructions are not great, etc. I'd love to have a better Hungarian option.

Deborah - aw, thanks! I think you'd like it ... and ... no beans! ;)

Jeanie - you could probably throw some of that spicy Mrs. Dash in there too. I bet it would work really well in this soup.

Steph - you too? Small world! I adore speztle, yet strangely have never made it. It is difficult to make?

Duo - you're right, it was the perfect meal for a snowy night. I'm going to send it in for the soup round-up on Sunday.

Sophie - me too, hopefully the blog will encourage me to revisit some of my neglected treasures. :)

stephchows said...

Spetzle is super easy to make. I make it when I make butter soup... I know sounds gross, It's really called something else but that's what my Nana called it. It's my favorite Hungarian soup ever! You can check it out here:


pixelgal said...

When I read this last night I went running for the cookbook I bought when in Hungary some years ago. It was written by Karoly Gundel, owner of the famous Gundel's restaurant which we didn't visit. Anyway, your soup sounds so much better than the ones with lard (all of them) and more interesting. There are about 18 varieties of Gulyas soup, some with mutton and some with pigs hocks or fish but the basics are the same. I'll try this on the Irishman someday soon and let you know what happens.

The Diva on a Diet said...

Step - thanks for that link, I'm off to check it out!

Pixelgal - yeah, lard is featured in many of this books recipe too ... but no reason we can't substitute! There are probably a million and one versions of goulash or goulash soup - but this one is by far my favorite. I think the Irishman will love it! :)

Debinhawaii said...

Yum! I have not had goulash in ages and I am so impressed with the csipetke too. Thanks for sharing it for Souper Sunday--the round up is posted. Have a great week!

Tangled Noodle said...

This is the kind of hearty, stick-to-your-ribs, good-for-the-heart-and-soul soup that I love! I'm sure the flavor is fantastic but it looks so colorful and happy as well.