And so we kick-start the new year with a shiny, new foodblogging event: "Waiter, there's something in my..." is meant to be a virtual gathering, hosted alternately by Jeanne, the Cook Sister!, Andrew of spittoonextra and myself, where you're invited to contribute to a new theme once a month. We want to keep this as accessible and inclusive as humanly possible and will be exploring those foods that are bound to exist in any country around the globe, but will have their charming local twist.
This month's theme, organised by Andrew, is "Stews" and true to the character of this event, we're looking at anything that vaguely can pass as a stew, and it's this diversity that we enjoy where anything goes from an Irish Stew to a Boeuf Bourguignon to a seafood gumbo. The more you can bring in your own culinary heritage and the food of your childhood days, the better!
I have recently written about the Austrian Fiakergulasch, and alluded to the fact that in century-long culinary raids, we have stolen many a dish from countries that belonged to the the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, most notably the goulash (called "gulyas" in its country of origin).
Little does it matter whether it does form part of an incredible loot we now call our culinary heritage, it does feature prominently in our lives, even if only on certain occasions. Apart from being a favourite quick and tasty snack when you spend a day on the piste, Gulaschsuppe is most commonly consumed at
wild and alcohol-laden New Year's parties where, in the wee hours, everybody is in dire need of something to fill their stomachs with, in an attempt to soak up the excessive amount of alcohol they've just downed and hoping to sober up a little. I can't remember going to any serious party where the host hadn't prepared a goulash soup, or, most likely, warmed a massive can of it on the stove - and any left-overs are perfect for the morning after. If you thought a Bloody Mary was the best hang-over cure, think again!
So, what's in my stew, then? All the traditional stuff: meat and vegetables (onions, potatoes) in good measure, a generous helping of dry spices (smoked Hungarian paprika, hand-harvested and -ground, no less, as well as ground caraway) and a cheeky addition of some smoked bacon... I really can't think of any dish that wouldn't benefit of a smoky rasher, can you? The meat I used was probably an over-kill, I only had fillet steak at hand - many would say it doesn't contain enough mean fat, but I can quite happily report that it was cooked to desired tenderness and very pleasant indeed.
As with many stews, this keeps really well in the fridge (about a week, I would think) and tastes even better every time you re-heat it... kind of handy at the moment, where keeping a pot of anything edible in the house is a good idea. Hopefully soon, there will be a few days ahead where we'll be glad not to have to run out of the house or order soggy pizza from some dodgy place round the corner.
And on that note, let me withdraw and have some contractions, if I may...
Gulaschsuppe (goulash soup, Hungarian gulyas)
(serves 6 generously)
100 g lean bacon (finely diced)
500 g beef fillet or rump steak (cut into 1 cm dice)
500 g onions (finely chopped)
80 g oil (groundnut or corn)
40 g smoked paprika powder
7 tbsp vinegar
1.2 litres light vegetable stock (or water)
500 g potatoes (peeled and cut into 1 cm dice)
1 heaped tbsp tomato purée
1 level tbsp ground caraway seeds
2 tbsp dried marjoram
2 cloves garlic
Heat oil in a wide, heavy-based pot. Fry the bacon until starting to brown. Add the onions and sweat until browning. When the liquid forming has eveporated, add the meat, fry until it has sealed (turned pale), stir in the paprika, cook for about 2 minutes, then deglaze with the vinegar.
Add the tomato purée, vegetable stock, garlic and condiments and cook for 40 minutes over a low heat. Keep stirring so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.
Add the potatoes, cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until the potatoes are soft (they should retain a bite).
Thicken the soup as necessary - the consistency is really up to you, I've eaten anything from very thick to very thin... feel free to have it whichever way you like.
Serve with fresh, crusty baguette.