Eric Akis: Hearty goulash is rich with pork and vegetables

Eric Akis

When deciding what to cook for this column, I checked the forecast and rain was predicted. A good reason to stay inside and prepare comfort food, I thought, so I headed to my kitchen and made goulash.

Goulash is a hearty Hungarian-style stew often made with beef, but other meats can be used, such as the cubed pork in today’s recipe. Joining the pork in the pot is a nice mix of vegetables and seasonings, with paprika, a popular spice in Hungarian cuisine, being the key one.

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Paprika is made from dried, ground sweet red pepper pods (Capsicum anuum). Although there are several types, the spice is often divided into two main varieties, milder tasting sweet paprika, and strong (hot) paprika.

In supermarkets, bottles or tins of sweet paprika, simply labeled paprika, is what’s most often available and what I used in my recipe. I added a generous two tablespoons and it gave the goulash a rich colour and flavour, and a bit of spiciness, because even sweet paprika has a bit of heat in it.

I wanted to serve fresh baked rolls with the goulash and I learned of one made in Hungary and other parts of Europe called “kifli.” They are a delight to eat and taste great when buttered and served alongside a bowl of goulash. In my recipe I called them crescent rolls, because of how they are shaped.

Hearty Pork Goulash

Lean pork loin replaces the beef often used in this Hungarian-style stew, that’s rich with vegetables, paprika and other good things. When bowls of the goulash are topped with sour cream, it’s a meal in itself, especially when served with crescent rolls. But, if desired, for an even more filling meal, the goulash could be served over egg noodles or rice. Any leftover goulash could be frozen for another time.

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Cooking time: about 85 minutes

Makes: four servings

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 lb. (about 680 g), boneless pork loin chops, cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch cubes

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup olive oil

1 medium onion, diced (cut into 1/4-inch cubes)

1 large green bell pepper, diced

1 large carrot, halved lengthwise, and then sliced

2 large garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbsp paprika

2 tsp dried marjoram

1/8 to 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper

1 bay leaf

3 1/2 cups chicken stock, plus more, if needed

3 medium white-skinned potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/3 lb. (about 150 g) green beans, trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces and blanched (see Note)

• sour cream and chopped parsley, to taste

Spread flour on a plate. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Coat the cubes of pork in flour, shaking off the excess. Set the coated pieces on a clean plate as you go along. Reserve leftover flour.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven (see Eric’s options) set over medium-high heat. Add the pork, in batches, and brown on all sides. Set the browned pieces of pork on another clean plate as you go along.

When all the pork is browned, add the onion, bell pepper and carrot to the Dutch oven and cook three minutes. Add the garlic, paprika, marjoram, cayenne and bay leaf and cook one minute more. Mix in 3 Tbsp of the reserved flour (discard the rest), and cook and stir one to two minutes more.

Mix in one cup of the stock and bring to simmer. When mixture becomes very thick, slowly mix in remaining 2 1/2 cups of stock. Add the browned pork and potatoes and bring goulash to a simmer.

Cover goulash, set in the oven, and cook 60 minutes, or until pork and vegetables are tender. Stir in the green beans, and a bit more stock, if you find the goulash too thick, and heat through a few minutes.

Taste goulash and season with salt and pepper, if needed. To serve, ladle goulash into shallow bowls, top with a dollop of sour cream, sprinkle with chopped parsley, and dig in.

Note: To blanch the beans, set in a pot of boiling water one to two minutes, drain well, cool with cold water, and then drain again.

Eric’s options: If you don’t have a Dutch oven, you could brown the pork, in batches, in a large skillet. Place the browned pork in a large casserole or other ovenproof cooking vessel. When pork is browned, sauté the vegetables and make the stock mixture in the skillet, pour over the pork, then cover and cook in the oven as noted in the method.

Crescent Rolls

Savoury, tender rolls, with a touch of sweetness, that you can enjoy with goulash, other stews, soup or any other dish you would normally serve rolls with.

Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus rising time

Cooking time: 16-18 minutes

Makes: 12 crescent rolls

1/4 cup milk

2 Tbsp (1/8 cup) butter

3/4 tsp salt

2 Tbsp + 1/4 tsp granulated sugar (divided)

1/4 cup lukewarm (not hot) water (about 110 F/43 C)

1 1/8 tsp active dry (traditional) yeast

1 large egg, beaten

1 3/4 to 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus some for shaping and rolling

1 tsp vegetable oil

Place the milk, butter, salt and 2 Tbsp of the granulated sugar in a small pot. Set over medium heat and stir and heat mixture just until butter is melted. Let mixture cool until lukewarm, about 15 minutes.

Combine lukewarm water, yeast and 1/4 tsp sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Let yeast dissolve in the water five minutes. Now mix in the melted butter/milk mixture and beaten egg.

Add 1 3/4 cups of the flour and mix on medium speed until a smooth, dense, dough forms that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Add the additional 1/4 cup of flour if the dough is not pulling away from the sides of the bowl. (The dough should still be a bit sticky.) Continue mixing and kneading the dough about five minutes.

Place the dough in a deep bowl that has been greased with the 1 tsp oil. Cover and let dough rise at warm room temperature until about doubled in size, about 75 to 90 minutes.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. With floured hands, press the dough into thick disc. Now use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough into a 16-inch round. Cut the round into 12 roughly equal wedges. Fairly tightly roll up each wedge from the wide end, curving the ends to form a crescent shape.

Set the crescents on the baking sheet, spacing each one about two inches apart. Gently cover with a tea towel and let rise 45 to 60 minutes, until about doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Bake crescent rolls 16 to 18 minutes, until puffed, golden and cooked through. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Note: Any leftover rolls could frozen, to thaw, warm and enjoy at another time.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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