Beth Mckee Deckard's recent post about Prague, "Sharp Claws and Lager" brought back memories of the trip my family took thirty years ago. This was 1990, and we drove from Milan, where we were stationed, for the May bank holiday weekend.
The Velvet Revolution had re-instated a liberal democracy the year before, and what had been Czechoslovakia was about to become the independent countries of the Czech Republic, Slovakia. There were sign postings everywhere for no pictures, no this, no that. This was the waning of the Cold War, and we felt as though we were being watched from every corner. It was hectic and a very exciting time to be in the country.
We stayed with our dear friends, the Daly family, who insisted we experience all things Prague. They did not disappoint. But due to the political unrest, food shortages were a bit of an issue. We indulged in pastries (trdelnik, strudl, makovy) whilst touring and Carole Daly's savvy shopping skills kept us fed in the evening.
There are many traditional dishes of the region, and most of them look like stew. Except the baked mincemeat which is, in fact, meatloaf. The goulash was by far my favourite stew option, and one that I have made many times over the years.
Goulash soup has its origins in the shepherding regions of Hungary. The heartiness and economy of the dish helped spread to neighbouring eastern European countries. The recipes evolved to reflect the products available in their area as well as the season.
In the Czech and Slovak Republics, goulash is made with beef and pork, sometimes combined. It is served with boiled mash, sauerkraut or steamed bread dumplings. In Slovakia, with bread. In pubs the dish is often garnished with slices of fresh onion, caraway seeds and spices, and is accompanied by beer. Beer can also be added to the stew while cooking. Seasonal varieties include venison or wild boar goulashes.
When we had goulash thirty years ago, it came with tiny dill pickles. I also remember something about sliced hot dogs, but that may have been another night.
The following recipe is a combo of several tests. I served my goulash over dirty mashed. If you are cutting carbs, serve over fresh steamed veg. This is such a tasty and aromatic dish and a welcome change from normal winter stew.
1 Pound stew beef or half beef and half pork
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cube beef stock, or one cup of fresh beef stock
1 cup water plus extra to cover beef
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon of the following: caraway seed, marjoram, hot pepper flakes
2 T flour
2T tomato paste
salt and pepper
1/2 cup of an inexpensive robust red wine, plus one cup poured into a round bodied glass with a high stem and placed into my hand.*
Dredge the beef in flour and shake off excess. Sauté the onion and garlic in a splash of olive oil. Add the beef and brown. Deglaze the pan with the wine and cook down a bit. Next, add the beef stock and bring it to a bit of a boil. Add the tomato paste and the spices, salt and pepper to taste.
Cook on low for about an hour to soften the meat. I often use beef tips because the cook a bit quicker. If your meat seems tough, don’t add the tomato paste until it’s cooked a while.
Serve over veg, potatoes, noodles, rice, or bread dumplings. Serves 4
* None of my recipes call for wine, but I find wine gives the dish a richer flavour. Who knows for sure, I might be drunk.
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