Hungarian goulash – an adaption

The origins of goulash date back to Hungary over 1000 years ago and it could be considered an early foray into dehydrated food.

Hungarian shepherds, who often spent long days out in the fields with their stock, would dry cubes of beef and vegetables. They’d store this in sheep stomachs and when they were ready to eat would mix it and cook it with a little water.

According to the origin of the word goulash is gulyá, meaning “herd of cattle,” “herdsman” or “cowboy,” and hús which means “meat.”

“A true Hungarian goulash, it is said, begins with onions browned in lard or bacon fat in a kettle or cast iron pan. To these you add water, beef cut into small cubes, and a generous amount of sweet paprika, Hungary’s national spice. This simmers over low heat for an hour.”

Whatever recipe for goulash you use, the common denominator is paprika.

This recipe is adapted from the wonderful cookbook Meat: Delicious dinners for every night of the week, by Adrian Richardson.

While the recipe in Adrian’s book is more soup-like, this meal, made by Linda, is chunkier and more stew-like but with the same flavours.


  • 1 kg of braising steak cut into chunks of 3 cm square
  • 2 tablespoons sweet smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (or more if you like it spicy)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon of chili flakes
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 400g tin of tomatoes with juice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3/4 teaspoon dry thyme
  • 2 large potatoes diced a similar size to the meat
  • sour cream to serve


Toss the beef, in a large mixing bowl, with the dried spices (except the chili) and the salt and pepper. Make sure the mixture evenly coats the meat.

Heat half the olive oil in a heavy saucepan or casserole. When it’s sizzling brown the beef in batches. Transfer the cooked beef to a plate.

Add the remaining oil to the casserole with the onion, diced red pepper and chili flakes. Lower the heat and gently saute this mixture until the onion begins to colour. Return the beef to the casserole and saute for another few minutes. Add the stock, the wine and the red-wine vinegar. Stir well.

Add the tomatoes, bay leaves and thyme and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and stir in the potatoes. Simmer for an hour or more (Linda left it going for 90 minutes, Adrian recommended one hour). Top up with wine or stock if it becomes too dry.

Taste before serving and adjust seasoning accordingly.

Serve with a generous dollop of sour cream – don’t leave this out, it really makes the dish and acts as a nice counterpoint to the spicy nature of the dish – and sprinkle chopped parsley or chives. Serve with warm crusty bread.

It’s delicious on a cold, rainy, windy, autumn night. Can you tell I live in Wellington?

Goulash - a take on the traditional Hungarian dish


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