Family Food: Nanny Faye’s Hungarian Goulash {Recipe}

Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

Today is a special day for my friend, Cheryl Tan. After what I’m sure seems like an eternity, her book, A Tiger in the Kitchen, comes out today. Check it out on Amazon. You won’t be disappointed.

Here’s what Cheryl told me about this book and her inspiration for it:

  • A Tiger In The Kitchen,… is about a year that I spent traveling to Singapore to learn about my family by cooking with them. The book is filled with lessons (life, cooking and otherwise) learned in the kitchen, as well as a few recipes.”

To celebrate the release of Cheryl’s book, I would like to share a family recipe with you. This is far and away my favorite recipe from my maternal grandmother, Nanny Faye. Nan made a lot of great recipes. Her fried chicken was nothing short of sublime. But the dish we all looked forward to whenever she would visit was her Hungarian Goulash.

Nan said she was given this recipe by a Hungarian neighbor, and for years she would never share it with anyone. When I was 13 years old, Nan came to live with us for about a year while my mom was in nursing school. During that time, Nan and I started cooking together, and I would help her make goulash whenever it was on the menu for dinner. Eventually, I tried to write down the recipe as best I could from what I observed while we cooked. I showed my attempt to Nan, and without a word, she took it and began to make some corrections. Before long, I had the recipe that no one in my family thought possible to get in writing.

I grew up thinking this dish was fairly representative of Hungarian goulash. In later years, I found that what most people think of as “goulash” is quite different than Nan’s dish. Most other recipes are more like a soup than a stew and are served over spaetzle or some other kind of noodle. They also usually contain onions and green peppers. At some point, I began to question the authenticity of Nan’s goulash. But I eventually realized that goulash is to Hungary as red beans and rice are to New Orleans. That is to say, it’s a dish found in every kitchen, and every cook has her own way of preparing it. So even though this recipe may be different than what you think of when you hear the word “goulash”, if you try it, I am certain you will agree that it is delicious by any name.

The recipe presented below is largely the same as it was when I got it from Nanny Faye, with just a few changes. When Nan made goulash, she did the whole thing on the stovetop, cooking the beef in the sauce for about 45 minutes, then adding the carrots and cooking for another 45 minutes, and finally adding the potatoes and cooking until they were done, 45 minutes to an hour. I like to put the whole thing together and braise it in the oven. It’s easier, takes less attention, and comes out beautifully.

Nanny Faye’s Hungarian Goulash

 Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds stew beef
  • Salt
  • 1 stick butter
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 18 oz. tomato paste
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 lbs. carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 5-6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

 Directions:

  1.  Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Cut beef into 1-inch cubes. Salt lightly. Melt butter in large, heavy Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown beef on all sides in small batches. As pieces are well-browned, remove them to a bowl.
  3. While meat is browning, mix flour and paprika in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, mix tomato paste, 1 1/2 cups water, garlic, and a pinch of salt.
  4. After all the meat has browned, reduce heat to medium and return meat to the Dutch oven. Add flour mixture, tomato paste mixture, carrots, and potatoes, in order, stirring well after each addition. Cook until sauce begins to bubble.
  5. Cover Dutch oven and place on center rack of oven. Allow meat to braise for 1 hour. Remove pot from oven, uncover, and stir stew. Add water as necessary – mixture should be thick.
  6. Replace lid, return pot to oven, and cook 1 1/2 hours longer, until beef and vegetables are very tender.
  7. Serve immediately with crusty French bread, or chill overnight and reheat the next day. Like most stewed beef dishes, this goulash benefits from an overnight rest and will taste even better the next day.

Yield: 10-12 generous servings

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17 Comments

  1. September 18, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    […] tease my grandmother for putting a dash of paprika on everything before it went on the table. What Nanny Faye understood and Dad didn’t was that we eat with our eyes before we eat with our […]

  2. Sara said,

    March 1, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    And…congrats to Cheryl! I’ve been following her via the BBA Challenge!

  3. Sara said,

    March 1, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    I can’t believe I haven’t made goulash with the winter we’ve had–perfect food for holing up indoors. When I used to live in the Czech Republic, I noticed goulash was an important dish there too. In fact, it seemed a bit like barbecue, in that it was the stereotypical dish that “men” made (who would never otherwise dream of setting foot in a kitchen); and it was a bit like texas chile, in that I heard warnings (which were actually boasts of a sort) about how hot someone’s particular goulash recipe was. (Of course, their definition of “hot” was a little different given traditional Czech cuisine is not particularly spicy, or I just like spicy food, I’m not sure which is the reason).

    • gaaarp said,

      March 1, 2011 at 9:09 pm

      I don’t know about you, but it seems like there’s plenty of winter left here. Still time to make goulash! Of course, I make it year ’round.

  4. betsy said,

    February 14, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    Your (or your Nanny’s) goulash looks so inviting for the winter weather. I’m definitely going to check out Cheryl’s book.
    I’m glad I discovered your blog through FFwD. I stopped by today to award you the Stylish Blogger Award to let you know how much I enjoy it. Reading your blog brightens my day. Happy Cooking! Betsy

    • gaaarp said,

      February 15, 2011 at 5:27 pm

      Thanks, Betsy!

  5. gaaarp said,

    February 12, 2011 at 10:08 am

    Cheryl was on NPR yesterday talking about her book and her time in Singapore: http://tinyurl.com/4zpqt7b

  6. grubtrotters said,

    February 9, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    This is my kind of dish — very hearty! Do you think I can spice it up with some chili peppers?

    • gaaarp said,

      February 9, 2011 at 8:20 pm

      Sure, spice away! It’s one of those versatile dishes that you can tweak any way that suits your fancy.

  7. February 9, 2011 at 3:17 am

    So hardy and so many good things in one pot – looks delicious! Great way to celebrate Cheryl’s book, too!

    • gaaarp said,

      February 9, 2011 at 7:40 pm

      Thanks. I’m so excited about Cheryl’s book!

  8. Rebecca said,

    February 8, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    I can’t wait to make this, Phyl! Looks delicious and comforting.

    • gaaarp said,

      February 8, 2011 at 8:29 pm

      Thanks! Let me know how you like it.

  9. February 8, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    This looks delicious! I’ve never made goulash before but now I’m dying to try it. Thanks for sharing the recipe and toasting my book! You’re the best….Cheers!

    • gaaarp said,

      February 8, 2011 at 8:29 pm

      I’ll be interested to hear what you think of it. Nan, in addition to being a great cook, used to be a dancer and once worked as an assistant for Blackstone the Magician.

  10. Kayte said,

    February 8, 2011 at 8:23 am

    Okay, we will give Nanny Faye’s Goulash a try…perfect time of year to do so as we love soups and stews in the winter around here. Looks good and filling, too, a big plus with the guys. I have never had goulash of any kind before, so this will be a first. It looks very exciting with those bright colors.

    • gaaarp said,

      February 8, 2011 at 8:27 pm

      I’ve been eating it all week! As I sat at my desk at work making yummy noises, I realized this may be my all-time favorite food.


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