Traditional Czech Goulash

I was going to make some traditional Czech goulash today and since there aren't many Czech recipes, I decided to make a little guide for this marvelous community. I hope you will enjoy it, despite my imperfect English and weird pictures - my kitchen is small and dark, so I had to use lightning often, which tends to make food look rather odd. First, I have to admit that saying "traditional Czech goulash" probably sounds rather strange, as goulash is traditionally Hungarian, but since Hungarians and Czech used to be a part of the same empire, our cuisines kind of influenced each other and thus goulash has a long tradition even here. Also, there are many kinds of goulash - you can use a large variety of meat and spices. The one I made today is based on my grandfather's recipe, which I altered only very slightly by using more tomatoes (my father likes it better this way) and less garlick (as I am not a great fan of garlick). I believe this goulash could be called traditional - or at least conservative, as I am using only the usual, simple ingredients and methods.



 
 
1. What you need:

beef shin (cca 0,8 kg)
3 large onions
1 clove of garlick
1 red pepper
2 big tomatoes
sweet powdered paprika (at least 25 g)
vegetable oil
salt

Note 1: Meat - use only shin, no other meat is as suitable as this lovely, juicy and slightly sinewy beef. Using lean meat or too fine piece (such as sirloin) is not really good. I think a fine piece of shin should look exactly like this:
 

Note 2:
Spices - I am using sweet powdered paprika, but you can use hot paprika as well, if you want your goulash spicy. Just be warned - do not use chilli, at least not if you want a traditional Czech meal.  Also, some other old recipes include use of  caraway seed, bay leaf, thyme or saffron. It can be good, indeed, but not necessary. Another trick is putting in some beer, but the flavour gets a little bit too strong and if you use it excessively, it can spoil the taste completely.

Note 3: Onion - there's one golden rule: if you are making goulash, there should be the same amount of onion as there is of meat. So please, do not be greedy about onion and use as much as you can. If you put in too little, you will not get the beautiful sauce and will have to put in water or broth, which completely spoils the effect.
  
2. How to proceed:

First, take a decent pot and put in enough oil to cover the bottom or even a little bit more. While you are waiting for it to get hot, dice the onion and beef. The onion doesn't have to be diced too finely - after all, it will all melt. When you are done and the oil is hot, put the onion in. Wait until it gets glazy and stir occasionally.

 

When the onion is ready, put in the beef, add salt and stir.



Notice the meat is not diced too finely. It should be done at least a little evenly, though. I think the ideal size is this, approximately 2x5 cm:


Now, let the meat and onion brown slightly, then add powdered paprika. Add as much as you like, I usually use cca 25 g, which is one sack. But you can add even less, depending on how spicy you want it.


Stir it well, then lower the fire slightly, cover the pot with a lid and let it stew for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cut red pepper into pieces (cca 1x 5 cm).


Do the same with tomatoes - you can either skin them first by using the old trick with hot water, but I usually leave the skin on. As for the core and seeds, I am using them as well, but if you don't like it, you can use only the fine flesh. When the time comes (see above), put everything into the pot and stir well.



Afterwards, put the lid back on, turn on the low heat and stew for at least one hour. I think that's the minimum, definitely do not go under one hour, or the meat won't get soft enough and you will still have large chunks of pepper inside. Below is a halfway stage - still too many large pieces and the stew is too watery. It must get thicker before you can serve it.


Once you cook it long enough (at least 1 hour, preferably 1,5 or even a bit more) on low fire, the goulash gets rather thick and meat slightly greasy. Like this:


If it doesn't get thick properly, there's a little tip: do not use roux or anything else, just crumble in some white bread (can be even a bit stale). It will help a great deal. Also, add crushed garlick - but only at the very end, during the last five minutes of cooking.

Finally, put it off the heat and - do NOT eat! Just let it rest a bit. Usually it's very tempting to have some goulas immediately, but the fact is it tastes better after several hours - or even the next day. Or the day after. The older the better. All you have to do is warm it (carefully) and then eat with fresh bread, rolls or even dumplings. The rich, flavoury stew and soft, melting meat is divine. :)

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