This weekend, it finally rained in Portland. The air is cleaner, the temperature has dropped, and this year’s reluctant garden actually coughed up some final fruits. I’ve frozen some, pickled others, and am using the rest to make a vegetable goulash. Generally, Americans are used to a goulash with noodles. Usually macaroni, which in this context I think is disgusting. I didn’t include noodles here, because I prefer to add dumplings when I reheat, or just to use hearty rye bread to sop it all up.
According to wikipedia, goulash was originally the food of Hungarian herdsmen, the Gulyas, who would dry and season meat, storing it safely for later use. Virtually all of the things we associate with modern goulash- paprika, tomatoes, and potatoes, were later additions brought to Hungary as foods from the new world, and not a part of the original recipe.
I came to eat Goulash as an adult, someone who had never tried it or seen it, making variations based on assorted recipes gleaned from the internet. So I apologize if my version is a horrific deviation- Goulash seems to me an ambiguously defined dish- call this “Pot au Feu a la Hongrie,”if that insults your sensibilities less.
My technique here is a joint effort of frugality and ease of preparation. I use Paprika speck as the meat, fat, and main seasoning, and add a combination of whatever vegetables I have on hand. If you’re unfamiliar with paprika speck, it is cured fat back coated in a blend of spicey, sweet and smoked paprikas. If you’re in the Portland, Oregon area you can get it from Edelweiss Delicatessen on Powell Blvd. Otherwise you could get away with using a heaping tablespoon of Paprika and 1/4 a pound of chopped bacon.
This soup ends up being incredibly nutritious, and not too calorically heavy. It contains the last of summer’s garden yeild- everything from egg plant and zucchini to green beans and baby turnips thinned from my Fall garden. It’s an excellent way to hide unattractive or immature produce, or clean the fridge, and the flavor gets better after reheating…making it perfect for a week’s worth of lunches.
1/4 Lb Paprika Speck (or 1/4 lb bacon and one tablespoon paprika), cut into cubes or slices
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon of butter
2 tomatoes, diced
1 quart of homemade bone broth, or stock
A bunch of watever vegetables you have on hand. Fill the pot! My personal favorite combination is eggplant, green bean and potatoes. But here I used those- as well as zucchini, baby turnips and rutabagas, and the greens from the immature root vegetables as well. Anything that might spoil got thrown on in.
Black pepper and salt to season
Serve garnished with raw sauerkraut and full fat sour cream!
Cut and dice all your vegetables before you begin, so that throwing everything in the pot can go as quickly as possible.
In the biggest soup pot you have, over medium high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add to that your paprika speck, and cook until the speck begins to release fat and look ever so slightly like it could become translucent. (If using bacon, just cook the bacon until it is halfway cooked.)
Add your chopped onions (and paprika if you’re using bacon), and cook them until they are translucent.
Add diced tomatoes and scrape up any spices that may have begun caking to the bottom of the pan.
Add other vegetables.
Cover, and let it all simmer over medium heat. The vegetables will begin to release their own liquid and a paprika-rich broth will gather.
Add the quart of stock or broth and turn up the heat to high. Bring everything to a boil before turning it off. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
Garnish with sour cream and sauerkraut.