Goulash – or gulasch, if you prefer the German spelling – is a well-known, tasty soup hailing from Hungary, as everybody knows.
What not everybody knows is that there is a variation on this course’s recipe, coming from Trieste, in northern Italy.
Here’s everything you have to know about Trieste-style goulash, including how to make it at home.
An Italian goulash?
Trieste is the capital town of a region named Friuli-Venezia Giulia, that lies to the Italian border to Slovenia, but it hasn’t always been an Italian town.
For centuries, and namely from 1382 (date of the act of the so called “dedizione spontanea”, a spontaneous submission signed to be able to keep a certain independence and, at the same time, be protected by Venice’s assaults) to 1918 (end of the First World War), Trieste was under the Habsburg Empire.
In modern times, when economical and cultural exchanges became easier, culinary traditions of different parts of the Empire spread within its boundaries, so that dishes of the inland became popular on the coastal area and vice versa, with the obvious changes made according to people’s taste and availability of ingredients.
That’s why a typical Hungarian dish is still nowadays so popular in an Italian, Mediterranean town.
How to cook Trieste-style goulash at home
Despite it is a rich and delectable course, it’s easy to prepare Trieste-style goulash at home, because it doesn’t require any particular tool or professional skill.
What you need are only quality ingredients and time, plenty of time.
Ingredients (for four servings)
1kg (2.2 Lb) bottom round roast
1 kg (2.2 Lb) onions
½ cup tomato sauce
2 spoonfuls sweet paprika
2 spoonfuls lard
2 or 3 juniper berries
1 small bunch of herbs (mainly thyme, rosemary and sagebrush)
1 pinch of black pepper
1 pinch of cloves (4 or 5)
Cut the meat in regular pieces, not larger than 4 cm (1.6 In) and keep it aside.
Divide onions lenghtwise and then slice them in very thin wedges, so that you obtain many transparent small arches.
Mince the herbs and keep them aside.
In a large pan, let the lard melt and, once it’s liquid, add onions. You’ll need a very large pan, because one kilogram of thin-sliced onions is extremely voluminous, but onions are mainly made of water and they quickly reduce.
Keep on stirring them, to avoid they stick to the pan: they must cook without scorching.
Once onions are almost stewed, add meat, and let it cook on high heat for a short time, to let its surface browns a little.
Then, low the heat again, add paprika and stir. Allow paprika to spread in the preparation by stirring and letting it cook for a few minutes, then add tomato sauce, juniper berries, cloves, minced herbs and a pinch of black pepper. Stir, cover and let it cook for about four hours.
Even if the lid of the pan will keep your stew’s moisture, it will probably dry in such a long cooking time, so it is important to add a little quantity of hot water and stir very lightly every little while.
Once it’s ready, short before serving it, you can add salt to your taste.
Common mistakes in making Trieste-style goulash
Using olive oil (or anything different from lard).
Lard is not only the traditionally used ingredient to stew onions before adding meat, it also is the only one that doesn’t affects the final taste of this dish.
Butter is too sweet, olive oil has a totally different flavour – almost bitter for such a course – that literally kills the sweetness of the dish. Even if it is told to be used by some, do not make the same mistake.
Using lean meat.
Sirloin is surely a more refined cut than bottom round roast, but it will turn into oakum after such a long cooking time.
Ask your butcher for some beef for stew, and don’t mind of how fat it looks.
Serving it with rice.
Rice is a common side dish for stew, especially in Anglo-Saxon and northern European countries, but so it’s not in Trieste (nor, we assume, it was at the times of the Austro-Hungarian Empire).
Trieste-style goulash doesn’t taste absolutely bad with rice, but it is meant to be served with potato-dumplings, or, if you are really willing to give it an “international” accent, polenta or smashed potatoes.