Sunday, May 1, 2011

Hungarian Lentil Goulash

By guest poster / collaborator : Mike

After Martha decided to make the focus of this blog on lentil-based recipes, we made a list of classic dishes/recipes to experiment with where we would replace the ground beef that would normally be used with cooked lentils.  However, Martha is busy with school so I have more free time than her to try things.  Therefore, I am guest blogging to share a lentil experiment: Hungarian Lentil Goulash.

Growing up, “goulash” in my family was just elbow macaroni, canned stewed tomatoes, and ground beef.  Most school cafeterias would serve a similar type of “goulash.”  Consequently, goulash in mind was never anything too spectacular.  However, a few years ago I was watching a cooking show and they were making a more “authentic” dish.  I was surprised at how much more delicious-looking goulash really was—leave it to American food science and a “time-saving” mentality to reduce something so fantastic into something so bland.  This blog gave me an opportunity to make that much more delicious dish but to throw some lentils in too.

This recipe is adapted from the one in “The Joy of Cooking.” Here are the ingredients:

4 oz. bacon – diced
2 onions – thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves – minced
½ cup Hungarian Paprika
3 red bell peppers – diced
2 carrots – diced
1 tbl. dried marjoram
1 tsp. caraway seeds
1 tsp. black pepper
3 bay leaves
1 - 16oz. bag of dry brown lentils (rinsed)
8 cups beef stock
1 cup red wine (preferably Zinfandel/Primitivo)
1 lb. sauerkraut – drained
¼ cup tomato puree
sour cream

First, brown the bacon bits in a Dutch Oven.  The Dutch Oven is one of the best stew/soup making dishes to have and its versatility is what really makes it so great.  Anyway, after you’ve browed the bacon bits, remove them from the pot (don’t worry they’ll come back) and add the onion with a little salt (about ½-1 tsp).  Make sure the onion is very thinly sliced; I suggest cutting the onion in half (from stem to root) and using a mandolin to achieve an even cut.  Once the onions are soft and browned slightly, throw in the paprika—make sure it is Hungarian Paprika and not just hot paprika!  It seems like an absurd amount of paprika but it really adds a lot of color and flavor.  When the onions are coated throw in the garlic, red peppers, carrots, caraway seeds and the other three spices.  Mix it all up and then add the beef stock, lentils, sauerkraut, tomato puree and red wine.  I suggest Zinfandel/Primitivo since it is believed that this varietal originated in Hungary – giving this dish perhaps a bit more authenticity.  In addition, the fruity-pepperiness of this wine really contributes to the flavor of this dish.  As with all dishes that call for wine don’t be too cheap with the bottle you choose, it can reflect poorly in the dish.  Plus you’ll want to enjoy the rest of the bottle with the finished meal!  Bring the pot to a boil, return the cooked bacon bits to the pot, lower the heat to a simmer , cover and cook for 30mins or until lentils are tender.  Spoon the goulash over egg noodles (remember, don’t serve the bay leaves to anyone) and garnish the top with a dollop of sour cream.  It can also be served over brown rice, which we had to do since this recipe makes a lot of goulash and we ran out of egg noodles after the second day.

I want to try adding potatoes and/or mushrooms the next time I make it.  I’m also trying to think of ways to make this into a vegetarian dish.  Not that I’m a vegetarian (obviously) but sometimes replacing meat can be a fun challenge.  I can only think to use porcini mushrooms in place of bacon, treating it like the bacon in this recipe (but sautéing in vegetable oil first) and using a dark vegetable stock instead of beef stock (Moosewood Restaurant has a dark vegetable stock recipe that just adds mushrooms and lentils to a normal vegetable stock to get the dark color and earthy flavor).  Any other suggestions are welcome!

Let me know what you think of this dish and up next – Lentil Golabki.

1 comment:

  1. Lentil based recipes... how ambitious! Especially when making Hungarian food, as we are not big on our vegetables :-) Reading the description and seeing the picture I am giving you my full approval for your dish. It looks GREAT!

    One suggestion though: gulyas (as we call it) is traditionally a soup, so I would perhaps suggest trying to make it a little more soupy next time and eat it on its own (no pasta). Gulyas is usually a "one plate dish" meaning you would not necessarily be followed by a second course. It is often made outside in a cauldron- this would add to the experience more than the taste :-)
    I hope this helps to perfect your lentil series.

    I reckon we will soon have the chance to have some meat filled gulyas soon on location!