Sunday, September 18, 2011


 When I was about 7 , I was sent together with my brothers to Hungarian school. Every Saturday we would be dropped off at the Church hall and picked up at noon. I think this served a two fold purpose,  we were taught a bit about Hungary and my parents had a few hours of peace .
In Hungarian school we were taught about " The Kingdom of Hungary" . We learned about the tribes who came to the Carpathian basin and settled, we learned the names and locations of the rivers and mountains, we learned about the great leaders . Of course we were young and the really colorful map which was always present, helped a lot for us to understand, just what a great  huge country our parents and grandparents came from .

I do not remember how many years I went to Hungarian school ( not many) but the only thing I remembered was the big map.  So high school starts and with it my first geography class.  I went to an all girls catholic high school run and taught by nuns. At that time they all wore the black nun outfits covering there heads to their feet...very scary bunch without smiles at all. Anyway the map of Europe was on the board in the classroom and whoever was of European descent had to come and show their country on this map. I think it was just me and Sophie from Poland.  I went up but could not find The Kingdom of Hungary. I looked everywhere , there was no country the shape of Hungary  on this map. The teacher then pointed it out a small little piece of land in the middle . Well ok I was not going to argue with a nun. That night I told my parents that the nuns were stupid because they had a map and the Hungary that was marked on it was different than 'our ' Hungary.
That evening I was told about Trianon and how this changed the whole shape of Hungary. The Hungary  I knew was the OLD Hungary, The Kingdom of Hungary .  Well this was embarrassing .

The past is important and perhaps we were too young to understand Trianon but somewhere along the line we should have been shown a map of the real Hungary even if just to compare the size.
That weekend my parents went out and bought a large map of the world and placed it on a wall. I spent many hours looking at the borders of the real Hungary and imagining  the huge change, what happened to those poor Hungarians who were suddenly not Hungarians!  I realized a sadness , a feeling of loss. I think deep down inside I realized I had very strong ties to the old Hungary even though I had never stepped foot on the soil.
A few years ago a very interesting book was published called  Paris 1919,  by Margaret MacMillan .
It is a very well written , easy to read book  and if anyone is interested in Trianon, I would highly recommend reading this book.

Today I was thinking about the Old Hungary and the shepherds  and herdsmen out in the plains.  There were no stores nearby , no hypermarkets but they still had to eat and they needed something that required little looking after and could be made in an iron pot hanging over a fire. These herdsmen were called 'gulyas' in Hungarian and so this delicious easy food that they ate was called Gulyas. Towards the end of the 19th century ,prompted by rising national awareness this peasant  food was eaten also by the townspeople and the noblemen. In the second half of the 1800's, Hungarian culture , language and food was a treasure to be protected  to save the independence and  national identity of the Hungarian's  from  the Austrian Hapsburg dynasty's rule.  By the second half of the 20th century Gulyas become the number one dish for every tourist who came to Hungary to try and everyone knew Gulyas no matter how it was spelled was Hungarian.

This is a real  Hungarian meal but I have tasted Gulyas made in so many different ways , like chicken paprikas people like to change the original. Gulyas is a food half way between a soup and a stew. On Hungarian menus it is under soups. I am making  this from a recipe that I got from my father who always made the Gulyas in our house. I think it is a Hungarian  guy thing as every Hungarian guy I know  (excepting my husband, his idea of cooking is boiling water and placing in the boiling water 4 eggs from the fridge and hopping one out of four will not crack open and he proudly says he can boil an egg! ) has their own 'special' recipe for Gulyas.

11/2 pounds  stewing beef ( the beef should be fatty )
2 carrots
1parsley root
1/2 celery root
1 tomato
1 onion and 2 garlic cloves
1 tbs paprika powder, 1 tbs caraway seed whole or powder.
1 green or red sweet pepper

 I am making this also to freeze ,the amounts you will see here in the pictures are much more than is required for two or four servings. However the amounts shown in the ingredient list are for 2-4 servings depending if this is a soup and first course or a meal.

I like to have everything chopped up before hand as then it is easy just adding when needed. I have found that by doing this I do not leave out something.

The first step is to saute the finely chopped onions and the pressed garlic cloves. When they become glassy add 1/2 cup water and boil so that you get all the flavor out.

You will boil this until there is no more water BUT not allow the onions to burn.

When the water has  boiled away  you take this off the stove and add the paprika powder, stir to coat place back on the stove and then add the beef, the cut up pepper and tomato, the salt and the caraway seeds. Put a lid on this and simmer until the meat is half cooked . This means you can stick a fork in it but it still feels hard.

When you check and the meat is half cooked ,you will add the carrots, paresley roots and the celery root. This would be around in 45 minutes on a low temperature.
(While you are waiting you will make the dumpling base so that you will be ready to add it, if you will be making dumplings. Many places do not add dumplings as they have added potatoes, it is not necessary.)

You do not need to add water as on a slow heat with a lid the meat will give up enough water.  Look at the picture I have just added the carrots etc and you can see that the water is almost covering the soup. This is all from the meat. Now you just let this cook  for about another 1-2 hours. You should not hurry this , if the meat is cooked slowly then it will soften  up . Do NOT boil, better to cook longer at a slow heat than boil to speed this up and get hard meat that is unchewable. Remember this was on a pot over a fire and cooked for hours.

After the vegetables are soft and you can place a fork in the meat easily   you will add water so that it covers the soup and the potatoes.
Yes there is a lot of fat on the top but do not take this off. It is a beautiful red color from the paprika.
 Slowly cook for about another  hour. The lid will be on but only part way .

Now this is done. The dumplings can be added when the potatoes were added but then you must raise the temperature to a slight boil to cook them . Speaking of making life easy.....

My cousin in Canada asked me to bring her dried  'csipetke' ( little dumplings) . It is something you can not get  there only here. It is a dried small dumpling basically, that you add to bean soup or gulyas instead of making the dumplings by hand. It does not change the taste of the soup, it takes a while to soften but you can add it into the soup with the vegetables and by the time everything is cooked, the csipetke is also soft ,it is a real time saver!  Since she introduced me to this I also use the dried type.

Another item that will help you get the right amount of seasoning  in the gulyas is Gulyas Paste. It comes in a tube and is either csemege (mild) or csipos ( hot).  Once you are finished you can squirt some paste into the gulyas , it is like a seasoning, stir this around and you are done.

So this gulyas was a mild gulyas, when you serve this you can add a small hot pepper on the side and this allows a person to control the 'heat' of their own soup. A few slices of rustic bread and you have a meal!

 I also have 3 containers of gulyas I will be freezing. When they are to be used I will just add some more water and heat up. This is a great time saver. Some how the gulyas tastes better the second day and also from the freezer. If you know you will have many quests you can make this weeks ahead of time. I take out the carrots and the potatoes when this has cooled as they do not freeze well. When I thaw this out I will also boil some carrots to add into the soup to give it the color. The taste is already in the soup so you do not need many.

The worst thing about the Hungarian cookbooks is that it says things like..."when the meat is half done". This has always driven me crazy . You buy a cookbook so that you can learn to cook maybe you are a beginner, how would you know when the meat is half cooked? How would you know when the gulyas is done  " simmer until done" or the usual " make a roux" . As a beginner would you even know what a roux is? When I was watching my dad or mom cook no one gave a name to what was being done. So when a roux was made it was just another step with no name. It took me awhile to find the names that matched the steps and then to learn them in Hungarian. By the way Gulyas does not need a roux.

Maybe what cooking is all about is just doing it , passing recipes down , sharing quality time together over a stove , from grandmother to mother to daughter or son. I certainly remember the recipes I was taught and the wonderful time I had learning them .

So our meal is made, I will cut the bread, pour the red Hungarian wine and we will sit and watch the setting sun. . I hope if you make this  that your gulyas will also turn out perfect!
If you would like me to send you some dried dumplings or gulyas paste just contact me.
Hungary Before Trianon 1939 : View Map : Hungary Old Maps : EN

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