Eating Goulash in Hungary and Other Stories

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It is finally Winter in Nashville. Real Hungarian Goulash is on the menu. Big chunks of beef, potatoes, parsnips and carrots in a paprika riddled broth. Hot and steaming with crusty pieces of bread for dipping.

This past summer I was traveling with friends and we spent some time in Hungary. Budapest in particular. I fell in love with the city and its food. One of my goals  was to eat real goulash soup. Bowls and bowls of it. Goulash, or Gulyas, is a cross between a soup and a stew. There are thousands of variations with everyone having their own family twist. Named for Hungarian herdsman or gulyas it is truly a dish of the people. I went…I saw….

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I ate…and ate….

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Budapest is a large, bustling city on the Danube with lots of old world charm. Like a frame from an old black and white movie taking place “behind the iron curtain”, the city seems caught between “then and now” in many ways. Haunting and beautiful, ancient and modern. A history of conflict, war, terror, lovely avenues, culinary delights and art all mish-mash together to create the whole.

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The three of us were smitten. Within weeks of our return home, the massive wave of Syrian immigrants were on the move across Europe trying to reach a safe haven in a welcoming Germany, crossing the borders of Hungary to get there. To our sadness the Hungarian government behaved very badly in this crises of humanity. Should I write about our trip..what we saw and ate? Should I share something I had so enjoyed when later disappointment clouded my outlook?

As food is a universal language with no allegiance to governments I decided that to not write this post about Budapest and Hungarian Goulash would be as silly as when people in this country refused to eat French Fries in response to France not agreeing with our invasion of Iraq.  A very silly response to a very serious situation.

So enjoy these photos and this recipe as good food is the lingua franca of people all over the world.

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Really good paprika is the key to an authentic Hungarian Goulash ,or Gulyas. It is to be found everywhere in Budapest and I stocked up on both sweet and hot. There are good paprikas from Hungary found in most large supermarkets in the USA as well as online sources.

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Hungarian Goulash

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Print

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Ingredients:

  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 lbs lean beef chuck, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup sweet paprika
  • 3 tsp dried marjoram leaves
  • 2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 2-3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 carrots, cubed
  • 2 parsnips, cubed
  • 1 1/2 lbs new potatoes, cubed

Directions:

  1. Saute onions in olive oil over medium high heat until translucent in a heavy dutch oven type pan. Stir often.
  2. Turn heat to high and add cubed beef. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until meat is lightly browned. Stir to turn meat a few times.
  3. Sprinkle paprika over meat and toss well. Add marjoram, caraway and garlic. Cook a few minutes stirring to mix.
  4. Add the carrots and parsnips to the pan with 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered until the beef is tender for about 45 minutes.
  5. Add potatoes to the pot and cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
  6. Serve bowls of hot goulash with crusty bread for dipping in the sauce.

Note: You can also serve goulash over noodles if you like.

Teresa Blackburn      http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com      www.foodonfifth.com

All scenes from Budapest in this post were shot with an iphone 6.

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Romanesco Cauliflower Soup Dressed with Za’atar

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Late last year…December to be exact….I was pushing my cart through Whole Foods shopping for a photo shoot. There is always a sense of urgency about this type of grocery store foray…time is of the essence…the quicker I get this done, and done well, the sooner I can be finished for the day….when out of the corner of my eye, while rolling out of produce toward seafood, I saw a display of stunning chartreuse Romanesco Cauliflowers. The brakes went on…I backed up…I was once again entranced by a vegetable! Such moments have often played out while I am shopping for one thing when I totally become obsessed by another thing…usually as in this case the exotic, the beautiful and the artful.

Looking more like an exotic creature of the sea than of terra firma these cauliflowers must make all others jealous. I call them the Cinderella of Cauliflowers!

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 I usually shy away from soups with lots of cream but for this soup just a splash was perfect.

Roasted Romanesco with garlic clove, shallots & olive oil to soften & bring out the flavor.

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I topped our bowls of soup off with another recent culinary love, Za’atar. This Middle Eastern spice mix is getting added to everything I cook these days. This little obsession began a few months ago while eating at one of my favorite Nashville restaurants, Epice. Among other dishes they add it to little bowls of dipping oil for the bread they serve. Then my friend Nancy Vienneau served roasted head of cauliflower with a generous dusting of Za’atar this past New Year’s Eve. Two delicious experiences with Za’atar in one month!

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Have you ever tasted Za’atar? It is at times a spice and a condiment. An earthy mixture of sumac berries, marjoram, thyme, basil, oregano, white sesame seeds & crunchy sea salt that is equally good smeared on a chicken or vegetables to roast. You can easily find it at most import groceries or, as I did, on-line.

A light sprinkle of Za’atar  & Gruyere Cheese…..

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Are you drawn to foods you have never cooked before? The exotic? Do you ever become obsessed with a comestible? What do you think this says about me…or you?

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Romanesco Cauliflower Dressed with Za'atar

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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Ingredients:

  • 1 head of Romanesco Cauliflower (or any other Cauliflower will be fine), cut into florets
  • 6 shallots, peeled & cut into pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Freshly ground black pepper & sea salt flakes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup cream or half & half
  • 2 Tbsp Za’atar (divided)
  • Shredded Gruyere Cheese for garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place the cauliflower florets, shallot pieces & garlic cloves on a large baking sheet pan.. Drizzle with olive oil & toss to coat. Sprinkle with black pepper & sea salt.
  3. Roast for 15 minutes or until florets are softened, but not browned. Remove pan from oven.
  4. Add roasted vegetables along with the chicken stock to a pot. Cook over medium high heat until vegetables are softened. Remove pan from heat & let mixture cool for about 20 minutes.
  5. Working in batches, puree soup in a blender or food processor until smooth. Put pureed mixture back into pan and reheat on low right before serving.
  6. Stir in 1 Tbsp of the  Za’atar while reheating soup.
  7. Add cream right before serving. Stir well. Remove from heat.
  8. To serve garnish each bowl with a light sprinkling of the remaining Za’atar & shredded Gruyere.

teresablackburnfoodstyling.com         foodonfifth.com

 

“Black Eyed Peas, Luck & New Rules!”

Black Eyed Pea SoupAre you superstitious? Are there certain beliefs or lore that have to do with luck that you adhere to? In the Southern United States it is a long held belief that cooking and eating Black Eyed Peas on New Year’s Day will bring you good luck all year. It really doesn’t matter how or if you cook them as long as you at least eat them on New Year’s Eve or Day for yearlong prosperity.

The history is long and the writing is vast on this subject. A simple Google search will give you more information than you can imagine. To intrigue you I will just throw out these separate, yet very connected words & phrases, ” Rosh Hashana”, “American South”, “Shephardi Jews”, “legume”, “George Washington Carver” (bless that man!), and “Georgia”.

Dried Black Eyed Peas

My peas ready to be cooked last year. I am pretty much a “doubting Thomas” when it comes to these things, but I do always try to cook a pot of peas on New Year’s Day…just in case. Do not worry if you don’t get to cook Black Eyed Peas on the eve or day of the New Year. I am making a “new rule for the Modern South”. You can now make your favorite “Black Eyed Peas with Ham Hock”, or “Hoppin” John” or “Peas & Greens with Cornbread” whenever you like and you will still have all the good luck and prosperity that you need for the coming year! I am sure of it. New Rule!

A very easy & delicious “Black Eyed Pea Soup with Ham”

Ingredients:

1 lb of dried black eyed peas, 1/4 lb mostly lean ham hock,  1 cup chopped onion, 2 garlic cloves crushed, salt & freshly ground black pepper, 2 cups chicken stock

Directions:

1. Soak black eyed peas in just enough water to cover them for about 2 hours. Drain. Place peas in a stockpot with fresh water just to cover, the ham hock cut into chunks, onions, garlic cloves, salt & pepper & chicken stock. Bring to a boil, turn to low and simmer until peas are softened, not mushy. This can take around an hour or two. Taste and adjust seasonings.

2. Serve with warm corn muffins & freshly grated Parmigiana Reggiano.

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Bon Appetit, Buena Suerte and Happy New Year Y’all and thanks for stopping by.

Teresa Blackburn, Food on Fifth

Nirvana in a Bowl / Silky Squash Soup with Vanilla

“Nirvana in a Bowl”

One Butternut Squash & a trip to the Yucatan Peninsula are the main ingredients for this soup recipe.

One was left languishing on my kitchen counter after a  photo shoot, the other was where I secreted off to, to do some personal languishing…a geographical place I love for all that it is. No phones, no television, no blogging…nada. Beaches, hammocks on porches, intriguing & delicious New World  food combinations, & quiet, absolute quiet except for the soft swish of palm  trees & waves.

All this Nirvana was punctuated by eating, which for me is nirvana. One night my friend, Terry, and I went to a small beach restaurant, “Tabanos”, in Tulum where we encountered some very sublime culinary combinations. Very-not-touristy dishes using  traditional ingredients in some very surprising ways.

This is their menu board. I wanted to order everything. We tried!

The first sopa/soup on the menu I ordered. Creamy soup with tomatoes & papaya and the very unexpected addition of vanilla extract. Nirvana in a bowl!

Here is my recipe inspired by the above using my re-discovered Butternut Squash &  pure Mexican Vanilla extract.

Silky Squash Soup with Vanilla:

1 Winter Squash, 2 garlic cloves, 1 onion, 3 carrots – peeled & cut into large pieces

2 teaspoons ground cumin, sea salt & black pepper,  olive oil

3 tbsps Kerrygold butter (or any other good quality butter), 1 quart chicken stock

1 cup Lite Coconut Milk, I cup plain Greek  yogurt

2 tablespoons pure Mexican Vanilla Extract

Spread vegetables out on a baking sheet lined with parchment, sprinkle ground cumin, salt & black pepper over all,  drizzle with olive oil & toss. Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes until vegs are softened.

Melt butter in a stock pot. Add roasted vegetables & chicken stock. Bring to a boil & simmer 3o minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes.

Put soup into a blender (work in batches if necessary) and blend until silky & smooth. Return to pan. Reheat on low & stir in coconut milk & yogurt until well blended.

Right before serving add a generous splash of pure Vanilla extract. Stir and serve soup hot with some crusty bread.  Pure, high quality Mexican Vanilla extract is not inexpensive, but a little goes a long way. It adds a hint of creamy, spicy & sweet to make this one bueno soup.

Back in Nashville, very wintry & a bit gloomy. I made this soup. Wouter & I had it for a late lunch. Things were much brighter and cozy…the creaminess without cream, the warm vanilla aroma… Nirvana in a bowl.

Both Butternut Squash & Vanilla are New World foods indigenous to Mexico.  If you do not have or cannot find Mexican pure vanilla extract  then use whatever you have. There are good quality Mexican vanilla extracts readily available online from King Arthur Flour  & Williams Sonoma among many other sites.

This is a perfect soup to start off a Thanksgiving dinner.  Leftover soup just gets better.

When in doubt…eat soup.