When the clocks go back, the leaves begin to flutter to the ground and the temperatures begin to drop, a man’s thoughts turn to goulash.
I’m a huge fan of slow-braising. Although the cooking time is long, there is little effort involved — the oven does most of the work for you and also imparts the flavour. And goulash delivers plenty of that … as long as you do it right that is.
I have had some great goulash, rich with the scent of Hungarian paprika. But I have also had some shockers — tough beef in a watery sauce that would enrage any self-respecting Magyar.
Traditionally, our Jewish goulash is made with beef, but back in Hungary they will use any meat they can get their hands on. So I tried it with lamb and it worked beautifully.
Start by frying a finely chopped onion and a couple of cloves of garlic to soften but not brown them. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, fry 1kg of boned lamb shoulder, cut into cubes. Best to trim off any excess fat first otherwise the sauce could end up too oily.
Add the meat to the onions in a casserole and sprinkle over a generous couple of tablespoons of paprika, a teaspoon of crushed caraway seeds and two sliced roasted red peppers (you can roast your own peppers but the shop-bought variety is perfectly OK), a tablespoon of tomato puree and 100ml of white wine.
Simmer for a couple of minutes, then cover with water, bring to the boil, season well and pop the goulash in the oven (pre-heated to 150°C/gas mark 3) and leave it for a couple of hours, which should give you a chance to play conkers, kick around piles of fallen leaves or complain about the neighbours’ fireworks.
Once the goulash is ready you can serve it with rice or pasta. In Hungary they often make their own dumplings. If you have some flour and there is nothing on TV then feel free to make some, (actually, knaidlach would also be delicious if cooked with the goulash) but I find that if you boil up some shop-bought gnocchi according to the packet instructions, drain and add to the cooked goulash, you will get the same effect for minimal effort.
You will find a more detailed version of this recipe in Warm Bagels and Apple Strudel, Kyle Books, £25.