Goulash inspired stew

As creatures of the cold and darkness, T and I both love stews, with their hearty, earthy flavors for cozy days. What can be better than the sound of rain splattering on the window, fluffy blankets you can tuck yourself in, a good TV show and a spicy smell emanating from the kitchen?

As soon as it got cold in The Valley of Joy, we had to make this goulash-inspired stew. The recipe I’ll give you today came after a few tries and I like to think it was perfected every time. How it began? I was looking for an original recipe for Hungarian goulash, reminiscing about the one I had in Miercurea Ciuc, a region with a large Hungarian minority in Romania. That stew stayed with me for a long time, as it was so simple, yet so rich, and it was cooked on an open fire, in a cast iron skillet. This is the type of cooking I love: rustic, authentic, joyful and simple.

After researching forums, recipes, and pictures, I have taken some basic rules for the Goulash. The additions I made next, though, threw away my stew in the highly blasphemous range for the cuisine puritans¬†so I won’t dare to call it goulash, but a very distant cousin. The warmth, the earthiness, and the spiciness are still there, so I highly recommend you try it for colder days.



  • 1 kg lean beef, cubed
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4-5 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne (optional)
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 carrot
  • 4-5 medium potatoes
  • cooking oil, salt, pepper

Heat the cooking oil on medium-high fire and add the meat. Let it brown and when it’s seared on all sides get it out on a plate.

Chop the onion and saute it in the same oil, careful not to brown it. When the onion is translucent, add the meat back in, then sprinkle the paprika and give everything a good stir. Add about 1 liter of hot water, making sure the meat is covered, turn the heat to medium-low, then forget about it for an hour and a half. The goal is to slowly cook the meat and keep it tender, so no salt or tomatoes at this point.

After the first hour and a half, you can add the harder veggies, the carrot, and red pepper. I usually cut the carrot in slices and the pepper in strips or cubes. It really doesn’t matter, go with what you like best: chunkier veggies or a smaller cut. This is also the time to add the cumin, bay leaves, pepper, and cayenne. Give them another hour in low heat to release their flavor in the stew.

The last part of the stew is adding the potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges or cubes, the tomato chopped in small cubes, the salt, and garlic. You can crush the garlic or slice it, however you prefer it. You can add a little water to cover the potatoes completely. Monitor the potatoes, you don’t want them to become mushy. 20-30 minutes should be enough.

And voila! Chop some parsley and add it after you remove the heat and serve with rustic, thick crusted bread. You can also add a spoon of sour cream on top when you serve it.

Here we have the same stew¬†but made with moose,¬†while we were in Finland for the winter. It’s like beef on steroids, very lean and meaty.