Thanks for all of you who have expressed concerns over my sudden radio silence, there's nothing wrong, but I have been a very busy bee indeed! A catering I did with the help of the Cook Sister! on Friday kept me on my toes all week (700 pieces of canapés and other finger food take some preparation, not to speak of the shopping) and on Saturday, we had a lovely gathering of the UK-based foodbloggers at my house... details and hopefully links to many more delectable cookie recipes soon!
After all those truffles and cookies over the last few weeks, I felt I was in need for something more hearty, something low in sugar and fat, rich in sodium and alltogether very tasty.
Every nation in the world has its stew - and Austria's answer to Bœuf Bourguingnon must be the Gulasch. I have repeatedly said on this blog (and still feel no shame) that we Austrians are no more than common thieves when it comes to all things culinary. We steal like Winona, really! Truth be told, we have spent centuries pilfering the kitchens of those countries that then belonged to the Hungaro-Austrian Empire - and now like to take all the credit for all the delicious strudels, dumplings, cakes, even something as simple as the Wiener Schnitzel. And I always thought that we had stolen one of the most famous Viennese dishes: the goulash, known in the capital as the "Wiener Saftgulasch".
Not so, I hear (with a loud gasp coming from the Hungarian camp of my readers). They do have a dish called "gulyas" on the other side of the border as well, but it's a soup rather than a stew. That, we have stolen. We call it Gulaschsuppe (gulyas soup) and apart from selling it at every single chalet/inn in every single ski resort for a quick meal, it is also traditionally consumed as a midnight snack on New Year's Eve.
But the dish I am talking about here is different. It does have its origins in a Hungarian dish as well, it appears, a so-called "shepherds stew" ("gulyás hús"), but when it was brought to Vienna, it was altered enough to create a dish in its own right - which we call Gulasch and the Hungarians later imported back, but chose to call it "pörkölt" to avoid confusion.
As many other traditional Austrian dishes, I don't make this very often as it is quite time-consuming - less in its preparation than the cooking time. The reason may be that traditionally, you would use rather cheap cuts which needed a long time to tenderise and contained many thin layers of fat which needed to fully disintegrate in the cooking process. What I use here (UK supermarket shelves and even butchers are quite limited in offering cheap cuts, it seems like they cut out all they can possibly pass as fillet and feed the rest to the dogs - which would explain why good fillet goes for close to £50/kilo) is any cut with rather big muscle fibres, for example from the rump. By the time you serve it, the meat can be easily eaten without the need for a knife, as it'll have a lovely soft and tender texture. The sauce for the Gulasch is mainly onions (at a ratio of one part onion, one part meat) flavoured mainly with smoked paprika and it will have adopted a deep dark red, almost black, colour when it's done.
The variations on goulash are endless - there's a restaurant in Vienna which serves it in 15 different variations (incl. a chocolate one for dessert) the Gulaschmuseum. The varieties differ in the type of meat used, but mainly in what they're served with. Dumplings, spaetzle, pasta, potatoes... you name it, all have their place in one or another goulash recipe. The present one is a Fiakergulasch (Fiaker being the horse-drawn carriages which you still see around Vienna as rather old-fashioned taxis to this day) and this version really is the most typical for Vienna: served with potatoes andor bread dumplings, a Wiener sausage (that goes by the name of Frankfurter in Austria), a gherkin and a fried egg on top. The sausage is often cut into quarters on both ends, which makes them curl up in the frying process. We call these "crazy sausages"...
The good thing about all things goulash, no matter which recipe, is that it tastes even better the next day - this makes it perfect to prepare well ahead of festivities. Think about it when you fret over what to serve as a midnight feast on New Year's Eve or even as the ultimate hangover cure the next day... and I intend to have it on the 1st of January, even though I won't have been drinking!!!
Fiakergulasch (Beef goulash)*
1 kg beef rump joint **
1 kg white onions
100 ml vegetable oil
4 tbsp tomato purée
6 tbsp smoked paprika powder (hot or mild, or a mix of the two)
500 ml water
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
salt, ground caraway seeds, marjoram, pepper
4 Wiener sausages (frankfurters)
4 large gherkins in vinegar
boiled potatoes or bread dumplings***
Trim the meat and cut into 3-4 cm cubes. Finely dice the onions and fry off in the vegetable oil, until browning and fragrant.
Add the paprika and stir in thoroughly. Deglaze with a generous dash of vinegar, before adding the water. Add the meat, garlic, tomato purée and season well. Bring to the boil and leave to simmer over a very low heat for at least 2 hours. You can do this in a pot on the stove or a casserole dish in your oven. Add water as required.
The end result you're looking for is very tender meat that you can gently ease apart with a fork and a sauce that is thick and very dark in its colour. You will also notice tiny puddles of deeply red oil forming on the surface.
If your goulash is too spicy, you can add some sour cream to it, do this just before serving and don't reheat after adding it, or it might curdle. If the sauce is too runny, thicken with some cornflour dissolved in a little water or use thickening granules.
This can be prepared up to three days in advance.
To serve, have the accompanying carbs (dumplings, potatoes, pasta) ready and warm.
Cut 5 cm long incisions into the sausage ends, cutting all the way through to achieve 4 equal segments. (They need to stay attached to the body, though!). Fry or oven-bake until the sausages are browning and the ends are curling up.
Meanwhile, cut the gherkins fan-stile: cut in half lengthwise, then, keeping the one end intact, cut the remaining body into thin slivers to create the impression of a fan.
Fry the eggs sunny-side up.
Serve the goulash with all the accompaniments, fried egg on top.
* Recipe based on Plachutta's Rindsgulasch, "Die Gute Küche", p. 294
** the traditional cut for this is from a hind leg
*** You can make bread dumplings following this recipe - leave out the truffles, though!!!