Memories of dining in the German Gästehäuser ... gulaschsuppe !
When we lived in Germany, gulaschsuppe was on just about every Gasthaus Speisekarte (menu). It is considered a workingman's meal ... peasant fare ... comfort food. As soon as the weather turned chilly, it was ubiquitous and cheap. The heart of each soup was chunky beef bites seasoned with plenty of sweet Hungarian paprika with plenty of onions, turnip, carrot, green beans, and potato to round out the stew/soup. Each restaurant and family has their own take on gulaschsuppe, though. One finds shell beans added, celery root, more or less of certain vegetables. Green beans, onions, potatoes and plenty of beef are always present, though.
My friend, Renata Dotzi swore that her mother made the best gulaschsuppe, so one day, she had me over to her little Weinheim apartment and we made a huge batch of the stuff. Her recipe is very traditional to her Hungarian roots; she put turnip, carrot, and celery root in her version. Oftentimes, in the restaurants, one doesn't find the turnip or celery root and only a hint of the carrot. We loved her version and I begged her to write it down for me ... this is the result.
This particular batch is without celery root, as I cannot find it in the States very often ... if you can, whack a good chunk off a mid-sized root, peel it, and cut it into small bite-sized chunks and cook it along with the carrots and turnip. It will only deepen the flavour of this incredible stew! Renata also swears that one must use top shelf sweet Hungarian paprika for this stew ... and cook it to take any bitterness from the spice. She also says to never stint on the time that one cooks the beef, as a soft chew for the beef is a real point of honor for her mother and the family when they sit down to knosh this stew with bread, cheese, and good red wine.
That being said, have at it! This is a different kind of beef stew and worthy of a cozy weekend meal ... enjoy!
Brown in a heavy stockpot or Dutch oven:
2 lbs. boneless beef chuck steak, cut into ½ inch chunks
2 tbsp. butter
Remove the meat when browned on all sides and place aside on a platter.
Keep the heat on medium-high under the pot and boil off the juices until a thickened brown syrup remains. Then add:
2 tbsp. butter
4 medium onions, cut into small chunks
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Cook the onions and garlic until they are shiny and translucent, then add:
2 tbsp. ground Hungarian sweet paprika
1 tsp. dried thyme flakes
Turn the onion mixture to mix the spices well and continue cooking, stirring constantly to cook the spices … two the three minutes.
4 c. good strong beef stock
2 c. water
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped into bite-sized chunks
1 medium white turnip, peeled and chopped into bite-sized chunks
1 ½ c. celery root chunks
Bring the stock to a boil and then return the meat to the soup, lower the heat, and simmer covered for 45 minutes.
After 45 minutes, add:
4 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks.
Cover the pot and continue simmering until the potatoes are semi-soft. Then, add:
1 lb. fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
Cover and cook until the beans are tender-crisp.
Ladle one cup of the soup into a small bowl and add:
3 tbsp. tomato paste
½ tsp. Kosher salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. cornstarch
Whisk the stock/tomato mix to make a smooth sauce and add it to the soup, stirring to incorporate.
Return the lid of the pan and simmer until the beans are done and the soup is smooth and velvety.
Serve with hunks of artisan bread and sharp cheese and a bottle of good red wine.