For me, November is a month that is all about comfort food. The nights get darker much earlier, the trees have lost their leaves and the air is cold and damp. Jumpers are in full-force and scarves, gloves and hats are making their first appearance of the winter. It is only natural therefore that on the menu is comfort food. Comfort food is different to everyone but generally it is food that will warm and sooth you and is easy to eat.
With that being said I am dedicating the month of November to comfort food and first on our list is Goulash.
Yesterday it poured with rain all day long (and all night) so this Hungarian casserole was a perfect meal to warm us up, as well as the house as it slowly bubbled away in the oven. Goulash is a beef stew (or you can use pork) intensely flavoured with paprika and peppers and then mellowed out at the end with lashings of sour cream. From the moment I added the smoky paprika to the dish I was instantly revived and felt like I had been transported to a rustic log cabin with a wood-burning fireplace smouldering away in the corner of the room.
I really recommend trying to get some smoked paprika for this dish as it really does make a huge difference, however if you can’t you can just use ordinary paprika, you just won’t get such an intensely smoky taste. La Chinata is the paprika I like to use to achieve the distinct sultry smoky taste and is now available from most supermarkets. The hot paprika is optional as it is quite spicy and will add a definite heat to the goulash, so if you would prefer a milder version miss it out and use 2 tablespoons of the sweet paprika instead.
The most common accompaniment to goulash tends to be rice or tagliatelle – both of which are lovely, however for ultimate comfort I find you can’t beat having it with creamy mashed potatoes.
750g approx. stewing or braising steak
30g/ 1oz plain or all-purpose flour
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely sliced
100ml red wine (you can also use white if that’s what you have)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 red peppers, sliced
1 tbsp smoked sweet paprika, plus extra for sprinkling
1 tbsp smoked hot paprika
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 x 400g/ 14oz tin of chopped tomatoes
250ml beef stock
1 bay leave
Salt & pepper
150ml sour cream, plus extra to serve
3 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
If you are using an oven-proof casserole dish, pre-heat the oven to 350F/ 180C.
Toss the beef in the flour so that all the pieces are lightly covered, shaking off any excess. Heat the oil in a large casserole dish or pan and cook the meat in batches until it is well browned all over. Remove and set aside.
If need be add a little extra oil then add the sliced onions to the same pan or casserole dish and cook for a couple of minutes then add the wine and de-glaze the bottom of the pan, scraping up all the delicious brown bits that have stuck to the bottom with a wooden spoon. Continue to cook the onions for a few more minutes before adding the garlic and peppers. Cook for another couple of minutes then add the meat back to the pan along with the paprika. Stir well so that everything is coated in the paprika then add the tomato puree, tinned tomatoes, beef stock, bay leaf, salt and pepper.
If cooking the goulash in a casserole dish, cover it and then put it into the oven to cook for 1 1/2 - 2 hours. If you are using a large pan, simply cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and leave to cook gently for just over 1 hour (or longer if you have the time), stirring from time to time.
When ready to serve stir in the sour cream and scatter over the parsley. Stir well then serve with rice, tagliatelle or mashed potatoes (if you want the extra comfort!). As a final touch, I like to put a small bowl with some extra sour cream on the table sprinkled with some of the sweet paprika for everyone to help themselves to.