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Goulash is primarily a soup, also existing as stew, originally from Hungary, usually made of beef, red onions, vegetables, spices and ground paprika powder. The name originates from the Hungarian gulyás, the word for a cattle stockman or herdsman.

Left: Hungarian Goulash.

Goulash was traditionally a thick stew made by cattle stockmen; today, it is still prepared in both soup and stew form. It is best to keep goulash simple: it does not  really need anything else than the onions and paprika (hot and/or mild), although garlic, a little tomato for the colour, a small amount of caraway seed, fresh green pepper when in season, and wine for game, are always acceptable. Other herbs and spices should be avoided.

An important rule for all kinds of goulash is to start by frying the onions in the fat until light gold (never darker), take the pan off the fire, immediately add the paprika powder to the hot mixture and stir well, then add the meat and stir again to coat the meat well with the onion-fat-paprika mixture before returning the pot to the fire. This ensures that the flavour of the paprika is released by contact with the hot fat, but that it does not burn or become bitter, which can easily happen if the pan is not taken off the fire first.

Goulash can be prepared from beef, veal, pork, or lamb. Typical cuts include the shank, shin, or shoulder; as a result, goulash derives its thickness from tough, well-exercised muscles rich in collagen, which is converted to gelatin during the cooking process. Meat is cut into chunks, seasoned with salt, and then browned with sliced onions in a pot with oil or lard. Paprika is added, along with water or stock, and the goulash is left to simmer. After cooking a while, garlic, whole or ground caraway seeds, or soup vegetables like carrot, parsnip, peppers (green or bell pepper), celery and a small tomato may be added. Other herbs and spices could also be added, especially hot chili peppers, bay leaf and thyme. Diced potatoes may be added, since they provide starch as they cook, which makes the goulash thicker and smoother. A small amount of white wine or wine vinegar may also be added near the end of cooking to round the taste.


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