Recipes Soupy things

Mothers’ Distinctive Goulash/Gulyas

Kitchen deer

Sorry, no food photo this time. Just this little guy to set the mood. Spring is springing in some parts of the Midwest, but we’ve seen a lot of the white stuff in the past few weeks, with another six inches predicted for the UP.

My mother and my mother-in-law are two distinct creatures. They often think in distinctly opposite directions, and they tend to live life in distinctly different ways. Now, before both mothers start reading into this and making outlandish, erroneous inferences: this is not a judgment, merely an observation. Ma Coates and Ma Redfern have distinctly different personalities. But their family roots are tangled in the same Austro-Hungarian origins, and consequently their kitchens contain some of the same European dishes, though prepared from distinctly different recipes.

It just so happens, in the past few weeks of family togetherness, both mothers chose to prepare their feel-good, home-cooked versions of goulash. Or gulyas. I fully enjoyed both, different as they were. And so I give you two distinct recipes for this oniony, zesty meat-paprika stew. Enjoy!


This combines Jenny’s mother’s (Rosi Reischer’s) recipe for Viennese Kalbsgulasch (veal gulasch) with a Transylvanian-Hungarian recipe for pork gulyas (pronounced goo-yas). Shades of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy!

Feeds 8-10 hungry people. Serve with any combination of: wide noodles, crusty bread or rice, cucumber salad, corn on the cob and a good wine.

Seasoning ingredients:
¼ cup ground paprika (I prefer Penzeys half-sharp Hungarian paprika
4 large cloves fresh garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons caraway seeds, toasted
salt to taste
fresh coarsely ground black pepper to taste

Lightly toss the seasonings in a large metal or glass bowl and let them wait a bit.

Main ingredients:
2 cups coarsely chopped yellow onion
3 ½ to 4 pounds pork butt or shoulder, trimmed and cut into 3/4 –inch cubes (or smaller)
2-3 tablespoons canola or olive oil
½ cup dry white wine
½ can (3 oz.) tomato paste
1 large can or jar (24 to 32 oz) sauerkraut
2 medium potatoes, scrubbed, peeled and coarsely grated

Finishing ingredients:
sour cream (the real stuff, no gelatin fillers)
paprika to sprinkle
fresh chopped chives or dill, in season

In 1 tablespoon oil, sauté the chopped onion over medium heat until translucent. While onion cooks, toss the cubed meat with the mixed seasonings, rubbing the seasonings into the meat (it helps if you liked playing with mudpies as a child).

Turn down the heat, move the sautéed onions to a separate bowl, turn the heat back up to medium-high and start lightly browning the meat in batches. As each batch browns, move it to a bowl and reheat the pan and do another batch.

While the meat browns, whisk the wine and tomato paste together. This next step is very important. When all the meat is browned, turn the heat down to low/simmer, put all the meat, onions, and wine/tomato paste liquid back into the pan, turn the heat to simmer, put the lid on the pan, and braise the meat until tender, about 30-40 minutes. Test for tenderness and taste.

While the gulyas is braising, drain and rinse the sauerkraut until the vinegar taste is gone. Mix the sauerkraut with the grated potatoes (note: if using wine-cured German sauerkraut, most the rinsing is not necessary).

When the pork is just tender, add the sauerkraut-potato mixture to the gulyas, stir gently to mix, put the cover back on the pot, and simmer for another hour or so. This distributes the flavors, and the grated potatoes thicken the gulyas without any flour or extra potato starch.

Taste and adjust as needed. Turn off the heat. When the gulyas is just warm/hot enough to eat, you can stir in between ½-1 cup of sour cream, if you like your gulyas creamy. Or you can serve the gulyas with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of paprika and a toss of chives or dill. Or you can let the gulyas cool to room temperature, store it in the crockpot in the refrigerator, and heat all or portions of it as needed.



My mother’s mother (Helen Arnold) left Europe alone, crossing the Atlantic by boat and arriving in the United States as a teenager. She settled in Milwaukee, where she raised four boys and a girl, and fed them traditional Hungarian fare such as goulash. Sadly, that recipe has been lost over the years, but the following rendition comes from a family friend. My mother likes it because it is easy to make and it tastes like the goulash she remembers as a child.

1 1/2 pound boneless veal or pork, cut in 1 1/2-inch cubes (beef can be used but it makes a heavier dish)
3 tablespoon canola oil
3 cups fully packed thinly sliced onions
2 1/4 teaspoon salt (needs this much)
1 1/2 teaspoon Hungarian SWEET paprika
4 1/2 teaspoon Hungarian SWEET paprika
1 1/2 cups water, maybe more
3-4 potatoes, cubed 1 inch x 1 inch (not Irish potatoes)

In heavy kettle, lightly brown meat in 2 tablespoons oil. Remove from pan. Add last tablespoon of oil, if needed, and saute onions with salt until golden and soft. Stir in first paprika, meat and enough water to just cover. Simmer covered one hour. Add second paprika and additional water to just cover, if needed. Simmer covered an additional hour or until meat is fall-apart tender. Add potatoes and simmer until done. Serves four to six.

4 replies on “Mothers’ Distinctive Goulash/Gulyas”

Well, Ma Coates, your recipe does look very tasty! I think our mothers would have gotten along just fine in the kitchen.

Kosonem (umlauts over the O’s – thank you in Hungarian), Karen, for paying respects to the family recipes.

Ma Redfern (Jenny)

I’ve recently bought some bright red “genuine Hungarian paprika” and some even more bright red “genuine Hungarian paprika” (as opposed to the brown Turkish paprika usually on sale here in Hackney). Having read a bit of Herve This’s book, I shall be setting up an experiment shortly, cooking one portion of goulash with each of the spices and comparing them. I’ll let you know how I get on.

To Ma Redfern–Your recipe also looks very tasty, different from any I’ve ever had. Perhaps our “house guests” will give it a go some time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *