‘Wait!’ I hear you cry: ‘Goulash is from Hungary! Or is it Austria? It certainly isn’t from Slovenia!’ While it’s true that Goulash has its origins in Austro-Hungarian cuisine, it is very popular all over Slovenia owing to the fact that Slovenia was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Read on to find out more, and to learn the secret of my family goulash recipe…
The History of Goulash
Goulash was traditionally made by Hungarian herdsmen, the name gulyás, meaning both ‘herdsman’ and the dish itself. It was a soup or stew made from beef and vegetables; later paprika was added as an important part of the recipe when this was introduced from the New World in the 16th century, and it became common to add tomatoes from the mid-20th century onwards.
Goulash is also popular in Austria, where it has its own variations, and there is even a Gulasch Museum in Vienna, which I would certainly like to visit if I get the chance!
Goulash in Slovenia
Most gostilnas (pub-restaurants) in Slovenia serve goulash, or golaž as it is known here. It tends to be either the soupy variety, with flour added as a thickener, which I don’t really like; or the thicker, Hungarian-style goulash which uses rendered onions and meat rich in gelatine to thicken the sauce (see recipe below).
Though traditionally made with beef, in Slovenia it is common to find variations such as divjačinski golaž made with game: venison, wild boar or even bear! A less common variation is segedin golaž, made with sour cabbage, sour cream and pork.
As for what goulash is served with in Slovenia, most common on the coast and close to the Italian border is gnocchi, pasta or even polenta. In the North it is traditionally served with kruhovi cmoki (bread dumplings). Sometimes it is simply eaten with bread. Goulash is so versatile it is delicious with any one of these accompaniments.
Recipe: Beef Goulash
This is the recipe we make at home, which was adapted from my mother-in-law’s recipe through years of alterations, variations and (dare I say it) improvements. All credit to my husband for developing this recipe, he’s the chef in our household, but I do know how to reproduce it pretty well.
- 1kg good-quality beef shin, cut into 1 inch cubes. This cut works best because it contains a lot of gelatine which is released during the slow cooking process and thickens the sauce beautifully.
- 1kg white onions, finely diced. Always use the same ratio of onions to meat, as this will form the basis of the thick gravy.
- 1/4 cup paprika powder. Use the best quality paprika you can get. The main base should be sweet paprika, but you can add a little hot and/or smoked paprika if you wish, according to taste.
- Olive oil for frying. Enough to cover the base of a large pan.
- 3/4 cup red wine (optional). The dish works well without wine, but adding it gives additional depth and flavour.
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme (optional). This is great if you can get it for adding extra flavour. Otherwise use 1tsp dried.
- 1 tsp black peppercorns.
- 2-3 bay leaves.
- 1 tsp dried marjoram.
- 1 tsp cumin (optional). Only add if you like this flavour.
- 1 tsp coriander (optional). Only add if you like this flavour.
- 1 tbsp tomato puree.
- Heat enough olive oil to cover the base of a large, deep saucepan.
- When the oil is hot, add the diced onions, being careful not to burn. Cook over a medium heat until they soften and turn translucent.
- Add the fresh thyme (if using), bay leaves and peppercorns, and stir together for a further minute.
- Mix together the paprika, wine (or water), tomato puree and dried herbs then add this to the onion mixture. Stir together well.
- Turn the onion mixture down to the lowest possible heat and cook the onions until they disintegrate. This can take up to four hours, so don’t make this dish if you want to eat in a hurry!
- Once the onions have disintegrated and released all of their lovely, glossy oil into the sauce, it is time to add the meat. Turn up the heat a little to cook the meat on the outside, being careful not to burn the onions. Then turn back down to a low heat and cook until the meat releases its gelatine and is tender to the bite. This can take another 2-3 hours!
- Serve with your favourite accompaniment: gnocchi, pasta, polenta, bread or even mashed potato works well.
Enjoying your goulash
As you can see from the recipe above, goulash is simple to make but requires a lot of time. Perfect to make on a lazy Sunday when you can curl up on the sofa with a good book whilst waiting for it to cook. It is also a great dish to cook ahead because it tastes even better after it has stood for 1-2 days.
We once served it at a birthday party with over 60 guests. Imagine the fun we had cutting up 5kg of onions! If you know any good tricks for preventing watery eyes whilst doing this, please share them below. My solution is to use a food processor!