Gorgeous Goulash Soup

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So we’re busy packing for our Christmas on the ski slopes, and it is not only the thought of a white Christmas that has me excited right now. I love the whole combination of a skiing holiday, the snow, the scenery, the fresh air and of course, the food. My standard lunch (and quite possibly one of the main reasons that I even go skiing there) on an Austrian ski holiday is a goulash soup. I’m not sure if it can be beaten, especially if eaten outside, half way down a mountain and wrapped up toasty warm. Recipes for goulash vary depending on who you consult, and where they come from, but you’re missing out if you don’t stick to the fragrant warming caraway and paprika combination.

Paprika is one of those ingredients lots of us shake around, without ever seeming to think about where it comes from, or what it does health wise. It is, of course, dried and ground up capsicum, or bell peppers, and can be found in hot, sweet or smoked varieties depending on the original peppers used and will not only give dished a lovely warmth and vibrant red colour but will also (as is the case with most spices) up the nutritional content of your meal. It is loaded with carotenoids, those essential precursors to vitamin A, vitamin E and iron. As if that wasn’t enough, goulash soup also provides a liberal helping of caraway seeds as well, another rich source of carotenoids and iron, which also tops you up with B vitamins and vitamin C, selenium, manganese, magnesium, zinc, calcium, potassium and fibre. All that, before we’ve even got started on what most people consider to be the real ingredients of a goulash.

I love to recreate this dish at home at this time of year, especially as it’s a meal you can make whenever you have the time (well, up to 48 hours in advance) and leave for the flavours to develop, it only gets better.  And never being one to miss a chance to fiddle with a recipe, or miss the opportunity to make something a bit healthier, I don’t serve mine with normal wheat dumplings, but with a mixture of teff flour and plain flour. But be warned, if you haven’t got a morning of alpine skiing planned, you may have to chase the family around the garden several times if you want to do it justice!

Goulash Soup Recipe

Serves 8:

For the soup/ stew:

2 red onions

2 sticks of celery

4 cloves of garlic (smoked if you can get it)

750g organic beef skirt, roughly diced.

100g organic pancetta

4 carrots

3 tbsps paprika

1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

1 tbsp caraway seeds

1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

1200ml good quality beef stock

1 kilo potatoes (chopped into large bite sized pieces)

3 red peppers (roughly chopped)

For the dumplings:

250g mix of teff flour and plain flour ( or use spelt if you fancy)

1 tsp of paprika

125g chilled butter

cold water as needed

Start off by crushing your garlic and leaving it to one side, then fry your pancetta until it gets slightly crispy. I do this without oil, as enough comes off the pancetta, but it is your call.

Remove the pancetta from the pan, and drain on kitchen roll, then fry off the beef skirt in the fat to brown it. Drain it along side the pancetta then wipe out the pan with kitchen roll.

Next soften the onions, carrots and celery in a tablespoon or so of olive oil. After ten minutes or so, chuck in your garlic and cook for a further couple of minutes.

Add the paprika and caraway to the pan and stir around until you start to get wafts of that delicious smell.

Throw the beef and the pancetta back in the pan, along with all the rest of the ingredients apart from the peppers and potatoes and bring to a gentle boil.

Turn the heat down, cover and let simmer gently for around 2 and 1/2 to 3 hours, by which point your meat should be cooked to down to lovely tender strands.

Make your dumplings by rubbing the fat into your paprika seasoned flours until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add cold water, a teaspoon or so at a time until the dough comes together in a ball. Chill for half an hour or so.

When you think you have half an hour or so left of cooking, throw in the potatoes and peppers, drop in teaspoonfuls of the dumpling mixture, recover and let the last thirty minutes back on the gentle heat work their magic.

Serve sprinkled with chopped fresh parsley and a hunk of crusty bread if you’re really hungry. Enjoy!

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