Pörkölt is a Hungarian stew that can be made with veal, pork or beef. It’s very similar to goulash with the only difference being that goulash is more soup like and often has potatoes added. There are versions of this type of paprika stew all over Europe with the other well known ones being from Austria and Germany. The main secret to a good Pörkölt is the amount of onions – you need a lot, and I mean A LOT. For one kilogram of meat you need a minimum of 4-5 large onions. As you can imagine this amount of onions will take a while to cook down so this is not a dish you can make in a hurry but it is one that you can make in advance as it just gets better with time and freezes very well. The other important ingredient is the paprika. You need a fair bit of it and it needs to be fresh and good quality, preferably Hungarian and you want the sweet kind, not the hot. Don’t use that old jar of paprika that’s been sitting in your store cupboard for years as it really will impact the flavour of the finished dish. I made the traditional accompaniments of nokedli (or spaetzle) which are delicious little boiled dumplings and a cucumber salad. I don’t own a spaetzle maker which meant I had to push the nokedli through the holes of a large flat grater which was a tad tedious but worth the effort. If you want a simpler pairing then you can’t go wrong with pasta, mashed potatoes or even rice. This is a totally delicious meal perfect for the cooler months when you want something hearty and comforting.
Ingredients – Serves 4 -6
1.2 kg beef stewing meat, cut into large cubes – I used chuck
4 -5 large onions (which should roughly weigh the same amount as the beef), diced
⅓ cup vegetable oil
3 heaped tablespoons best quality Hungarian sweet paprika
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 green capsicum/pepper sliced – the long banana shape ones are best if you can find them
Nokedli/Spaetzle recipe can be found here
Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. I like to use a pan that is wide but not too deep. When the oil has heated add the onions along with a pinch of salt and cook, stirring regularly, until they are soft, but you don’t need to caramelise them. Add more oil if you feel the onions are catching.
Take the pan off the heat (this is important otherwise you risk the paprika burning and getting bitter) and add the paprika, stir it into the cooked onions until well incorporated. Return to the heat and add the beef and caraway seeds. Stir well again, making sure all the pieces of meat are well coated with the paprika.
Add a teaspoon of salt, a good few grindings of black pepper and about half a cup of water and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for at least 11/2 – 2 hours. Check the pan every now and then to make sure there is enough liquid. If you feel that the pan is too dry add a very small amount of water, only a tablespoon or two. At the end of the cooking time the meat should be fork tender with the sauce thick and just clinging to the meat. When it reaches this point add the green pepper, stir it into the sauce, turn off the heat and a let the Pörkölt sit covered for 15 minutes before serving. In that time the meat relaxes and the pepper softens into the sauce.