Goulash, Good Books and Colin Firth

red-potMy grandma called it goulache (goo-lah-key).  She didn’t use paprika like they do in a genuine Hungarian Goulash.  My version is more of a whatever’s-in-the-kitchen-pantry variety.  It’s a take on spaghetti sauce only the vegies are chunkier and the sauce is wetter.  I always make a big batch so as to have some to put in the freezer.  It’s great to have extra on hand for ski days or those days when I’m not wanting to go to the store, which happens to be just about every day.

Goulash is my ultimate comfort food.  Since Winter doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to turn to Spring, I’m fixing Goulash and reading by the fire.

To the kids, I’m reading more in the Merlin series – The Seven Songs of Merlin, by T. A. Barron.

For my own enjoyment I picked up a copy of Molly Ringwald’s, Getting the Pretty Back.  It’s light and funny; she references lots of the stuff from my high school days; and she doesn’t take herself too seriously – just what this weather calls for.  Reading her book is like spending the day at the spa with a girlfriend, sipping lattes, and then wrapping up the day with wine, dinner, freshly painted toes and a cheerier outlook.

Goulash in the Red Pot

  • 1 pound hamburger
  • 1 small onion coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic – pounded
  • 1 small green pepper – coarsely chopped
  • 1 carrot – peeled, coarsely chopped
  • 2 – 14 oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 – 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 C red wine
  • 3 T parsley
  • 1 tsp basil
  • pinch of salt and lots of pepper

Brown the burger while chopping the vegies and pounding the garlic.  Young Sous-Chefs can help with the pounding of garlic, peeling of carrots, the opening of the canned goods and – if they aren’t real young – the chopping of the vegetables.

While the burger is still a little pink, add all vegies but the garlic.  Add a couple tablespoons of chicken broth (water will do).  Cover and simmer until the onions appear less white and the carrots aren’t quite as crunchy.  Add the garlic and remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil and simmer on a medium-low heat,  until the sauce seems to be more about one flavor as opposed to individual flavors, 30 – 45 minutes.  Uncover for the last 15 minutes so the sauce doesn’t get too wet.

(You can put your own twist on this recipe by adding corn, celery, kidney beans or cauliflower.  There aren’t any hard and fast rules about goulash.)

At this point, while the sauce is simmering, I’ll have enough time to read another chapter to Jen and Will.



Taste the sauce.  I might add a couple teaspoons of sugar to mellow the flavor a bit.  A couple shakes of Tabasco does magic for melding the flavors, and adding a little heat.

Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to boil with a couple pinches of salt.  Cook 1 1/2 – 2 cups macaroni.  Don’t over-cook the macaroni, it will continue to soften in the sauce.

Set aside two-thirds of the sauce.  When cool, this can be separated into two quart-size freezer bags.  Yay!  Dinner is done on two different nights in the near future.

Drain and add the macaroni to the pot of remaining sauce.  Just before dishing, I had a couple tablespoons of butter and stir to combine.  The butter is optional, of course, but it makes the sauce rich and irresistible.

I serve goulash in deep bowls with a snowdrift of freshly grated parmesan.  I don’t serve salad or bread with goulash, because then I’ll have room for a second serving.microplane-and-parmesan

I don’t have a lot of kitchen gadgets, but I love my Microplane for grating parmesan.  It’s also the perfect tool for grating fresh ginger into a wok bubbling with saucy beef and vegies.  Plus, the kids like pretending they are in a fine restaurant when they grate their own parm on their spaghetti, or all over the table, as the case may be.

Jenny likes a bowl of macaroni with a little sauce on the side.  Will likes his goulash extra saucy.  It’s easy to accommodate all the eaters in the family with this dish.  As long as there’s macaroni involved, they don’t seem to notice the chunks of green things.

When our moods are in dire need of brightening, I’ll bend the rules and put in a movie to enjoy while we’re eating.  We’ll sit on the couch with lots of napkins and steaming bowls of goulash and watch Nanny McPhee.  The kids think I love the movie because of the pranks the young actors play, or because Emma Thompson portrays an engaging, slightly wicked Mary Poppins figure.  Secretly, I love the movie because of the snowy wedding scene with Colin Firth.




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  1. I am going to try this recipe in an effort to cleanse my feelings on goulash.

    I learned to cook when I moved out of the house at 17, pregnant with my 32 year-old “boyfriend’s” son. He taught me his mother’s recipe for the Hungarian stew:

    2 cans of Chef Boyardee spaghetti
    2 lb. ground beef
    TONS of Lawry’s season salt

    Disgusting stuff. Really gross. But it was recipes like this one that inspired me to become a bit of a foodie…so my children and I would never have to grow up with similar goulash memories.

    Yours sounds divine, and 23 years later it’s probably time to give the old goulash another go.


  2. Jenny,

    I’ve heard of some pretty ‘creative’ ways to make goulash. The one you mentioned should probably get some sort of award? Probably not.

    Nice to see you here.

    Bon Appetit!

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