It's time for something traditionally Austrian again. I say Austrian and this is where the controversy begins. I have grown up thinking that our Gulasch was a decidedly Austrian dish. But this is the 21st century and the part of the former Austrian Empire where the gulyas originates now belongs to Hungary. Admittedly, we do have a tendency in Austria to claim things ours that actually aren't: Milka might be produced in Austria, but is really Swiss (and since Philip Morris/Kraft bought Suchard, the boundaries are even more blurred), Strudels and many other sweets are a Bohemian (read: Czech) invention, our Wiener Schnitzel is apparently a plagiarism as well and has its roots in Milan... but we insist on Hitler being German!
I guess we can be forgiven, acknowledging that the old Empire was very much a melting pot of nations and I think it's honourable, more than anything, that Austria has adopted these culinary gems and defends them with unparalleled fervour. But the controversy doesn't stop here either, because many people will say that the Erdaepfelgulasch I cooked up the other day is really not a goulash at all. To which I respond: in its birthplace, gulyas comes in many different guises - to start with, a real Hungarian gulyas is actually more like a soup (resembling the Austrian Gulaschsuppe) and what we call Gulasch in Austria (pieces of beef slow-cooked with heaps of onions in a paprika-laden sauce) also has various declinations in the East - the most prominent variation probably being the one originating in Szeged, which involves sauerkraut. The potato version could be a meat-free goulash, using vegetarian sausages - I like it because it's quick to make, economical, yet incredibly tasty. If you have a good source for your paprika (and I do, importing it straight from Hungary, where my father's friend's mother grows the stuff in her garden and smokes and dries it herself), this can be as spicy as a Thai or Indian curry or Mexican habanero chillies... so make sure to use this vital ingredient with caution!
Potato gulyas (Erdäpfelgulasch)*
2 medium white or yellow onions (ca. 250 g)
800 g waxy potatoes
20 g paprika (spicy or mild or a mixture of the two)
2 tbsp wheatgerm oil
200 g spicy dry-cured sausage (you could use a Polish cabanos, the harder, the better)
700 g vegetable stock
1 dash cider or white wine vinegar
Peel and thinly slice the onions. Prepare the potatoes, peeling and cutting them into 3-5 cm chunks.
Fry the onions in the oil while you cut the sausages into 1 cm rounds. Add the paprika when the onions are soft and golden brown and immediately deglaze with the vinegar. Add the potatoes and season well. Cook for about 20 minutes, the potatoes should be tender, but still firm. Season with salt, pepper and marjoram. Turn off the heat. Add the sausages and leave to infuse for about 5 minutes.
Serve hot with crusty bread on the side.
* based on a recipe in Plachutta's "Die gute Kueche"