Recipe: Beef Paprikash
Gedempte is a word that has fallen from favour in the modern Jewish kitchen. Today, it is all about char-grilling, wok-stirring and pan-frying (er, like, where else are you going to fry that piece of fish?). It is understandable, perhaps. Long, slow-simmered cooking was once a useful cover-up for kitchen crimes and misdemeanours: a way of rendering cheap cuts edible.
The word generally refers to large, whole cuts of meat, but the term came to mean, at least in my house, anything that was bludgeoned into submission and cooked until it lost all connection with reality. My mother never knowingly under-cooked anything in her life. She could even gedempte a tin of peas.
Slow-cooked food, however, has become rightly popular once more. There is nothing fancy about this recipe for Hungarian beef paprikash - it is neither nouvelle nor adventurous, simply an enduring comfort food, easy to make and suitable for cold, dark nights. I was reminded of it after a recent visit to the incomparable Gay Hussar restaurant in Soho, where the herring with sour cream and Dobos Torte (Hungarian layer cake) remain as splendid as ever.
But success does depend on a little special shopping for high-quality "Noble Sweet" Hungarian paprika in order to add a mild, spicy flavour as well as the Magyar hue of a deep red sunset.
● 450g onions, sliced
● 4 tbsp oil
● 800g stewing beef, in small pieces
● Flour, for coating, seasoned with salt and pepper
● 2 cloves garlic, crushed
● 1 tbsp caraway seeds
● 3 multi-coloured peppers, seeded and thickly sliced
● 1 tbsp sweet paprika powder, or more to taste
● 400g x 2 tinned tomatoes with juice
● 1 tbsp tomato puree
● Fresh chopped parsley or dill
● Coat the beef in the flour, then brown in a large casserole. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
● Add the onions to the pan. Fry until they soften, then add the garlic, caraway seeds and peppers. Cook gently for 5-10 minutes.
● Remove the pan from the heat and add the paprika, stirring constantly. Take care not to over-heat as it will burn and turn bitter.
● Replace on the heat, and add the meat, tomatoes and puree. Cover and simmer for an hour and a half, stirring occasionally.
● Check the seasoning and sprinkle with parsley or dill. Serve with dumplings or rice.
(This recipe works equally well with chicken pieces, but do keep the skin on).