Mom passed along to me a recipe for this Slow Cooker Hungarian Goulash awhile back, saying that it tasted very similar to what they ate almost seven years ago while visiting my sister’s family living in Romania. I tucked the copy away with my pile of saved recipes, with no urgent desire to reenact what Mom and Dad ate for lunch during their first visit to Hungary.
And then recently I was wishing I had a beef stew recipe fit for the slow cooker, and ran across the one Mom gave me years ago. Included were handwritten notes of how she had changed the recipe to more closely mimic the bowls of stew they had enjoyed on their trip. I decided to dig into this story further and asked my sister Cheryl of her own Hungarian goulash memories, since her family ate it regularly while living in Romania. She embellished upon Mom’s recipe notes and then gave me a little background on how they used to eat goulash.
Whenever Cheryl and Dave and their two young kids traveled from the airport in Budapest, Hungary to Oradea, Romania, where they lived for two years, they would stop at a small roadside panzió (Hungarian for boarding house, small hotel, or bed and breakfast) along the way for a bowl of goulash. This particular panzió was recommended to them by Romanian friends, and cooked their goulash in a big cast iron pot over the fire. The humble stew was served in bowls, steaming hot, along with big loaves of fresh, crusty bread for dunking and swiping up every last drop of goodness.
I asked Mom and Cheryl to email me a few pictures from the time they spent together visiting Budapest and Vienna, Austria that summer, when my parents ate their first Hungarian goulash. I am sharing a few of those photos here. Because this is what I now think about as I’m eating this delicious stew…
A highlight of their trip was visiting Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna. A former imperial 1,441-room summer residence, it is now a major tourist attraction. The grounds are meticulously kept, and are home to numerous gardens, pools, fountains, and sculptures…and a maze!
(Schönbrunn Palace is shown in the top photo. The Palm House, on the palace grounds, is in the bottom photo, with Mom, Dad, and Cheryl and Dave’s kids in the foreground.)
Pictured on the left are Cheryl and Dave with their son and daughter in front of the Neptune Fountain at Schönbrunn Palace. The grounds also feature the world’s oldest zoo, constructed in 1752 (bottom right).
While in Vienna, they also visited St. Stephens Cathedral, a medieval limestone landmark. It was constructed in 1147 and named after the first known Christian martyr. Massive in size, sitting atop underground tombs, catacombs, and crypts, it houses 18 altars in the main part of the church, plus more in various chapels.
I found information on the Schönbrunn Palace and St. Stephens Cathedral completely fascinating. As my dad always says, “google it”. The history on these places is amazing.
(Left photo is of St. Stephens Cathedral. Top right photo is of Dad, Mom, and Cheryl and Dave’s kids sitting along the Danube River. Middle right photo is of Cheryl and Dave’s family taking a carriage ride in Vienna. And the bottom right photo is of a pianist playing in the street near the cathedral.)
After talking to Mom and Cheryl about their memories of Hungarian goulash, this is what I’ve come away with. Quite simply, it’s nothing more than a humble stew of beef, potatoes, and vegetables. And yet, it’s so much more.
This version is incredibly easy to make. Cubes of beef roast turn ultra tender along with potatoes, carrots, and mushrooms, magically transformed by a few hours in the slow cooker. The broth is beefy, with just a bit of tomato flavor, along with the signature sweet Hungarian paprika goodness. It’s beautiful. My family loves it. I hope yours does, too.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Place beef in slow cooker. Cover with carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, onion and garlic. In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients, and then add to the slow cooker. Stir a bit to combine. Cover and turn heat to high. Cook for 4 to 5 hours, or until beef and veggies are very tender. Serve in bowls with a warm loaf of fresh crusty bread.
From my mom's recipe box...heavily adapted from this recipe, with input from Mom and my sister Cheryl from their travels to Hungary and Austria.
Thank you to Mom and Cheryl for sharing your memories and your photos. xo