THE DANK, DREARY days of January linger on. With little inclination to venture out into the garden or allotment in the limited daylight hours, I’m catching up on indoor jobs in my free time: sorting out my ancient cardboard seed boxes, a freebie from Thompson & Morgan many moons ago, ready for the move to my new and ultra-chic tin seed boxes, a lovely Christmas present from my sister. Once I’ve thrown away the inevitable flotsam & jetsam, I’ll be able to get on with ordering my seeds for the coming growing season – one of my very favourite tasks!
In the meantime, here’s a warming recipe for Gulaschsuppe, or goulash soup, a hearty skiing staple, but perfect for these January days of endless rain and minimal light. Mine is loosely based on the version in the Covent Garden Book of Soups, tweaked to adapt to a lack of beef stock in the freezer and my local farm shop’s suggestion that I use a piece of beef shin with the bone in – inspired!
Gulaschsuppe (Goulash soup)
Piece of shin beef on the bone (mine weighed about 1lb)
1 onion, small carrot, stick of celery, bay leaf, sprig of rosemary
2 medium onions, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
12 oz potatoes, peeled and diced
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato purée
1-2 red chillis (mine are smallish Apache which are hot, but not too hot – you’ll need to make that call yourself!)
¼ pt red wine
2 carrots, diced
½ red pepper, diced
½ green pepper, diced
2 tsp paprika
Start by making the stock: place the beef shin in a large pan with the onion, carrot, celery and herbs, cover with water (my pan holds at least 2 litres), season, bring to the boil and simmer for around 2 hours. Drain, reserving the precious liquid, and take the meat off the bone when cool enough to handle – it should more or less fall off (waiting dogs will no doubt be grateful for the fatty bits). Chop finely and set aside.
Heat a dash of olive oil and cook the onion, garlic and celery gently for about 5 mins. Add the potatoes, finely chopped chilli, carrot, red and green pepper and cook for a few minutes, then add the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, paprika and seasoning. Stir thoroughly, then add the red wine and at least a litre of your stock. Finally add half the chopped meat and simmer the soup gently for about 40 minutes until all the vegetables are tender. Allow to cool a little, then blend in batches in a liquidizer, half coarsely and half quite smoothly, or as preferred. Return to a pan and add more stock if the soup looks too thick, then stir in the remaining chopped meat, and reheat to serve.
Enjoy with crusty bread and let your first mouthful transport you to the Austrian Alps! Well, anywhere away from the relentless rain of a wet English January….
Any remaining stock can be frozen, as can any leftover soup. This should make plenty for six, depending on the size of your bowls, and family appetites, of course! When my student son is home, my portions for six strangely only make enough for 3/4…
P.S. I’d initially asked my local farm shop in Mark Cross for beef bones to make my stock, but as it was coming up to Christmas, their freezers were full of meat and there were no bones to be had. Hence the suggestion of the beef shin complete with bone, which I ordered for the following weekend when I collected my Christmas order and froze for a rainy day. However, she did let me have a couple of chicken carcasses for the princely sum of £1, so I could bolster my stock reserves in the meantime: I boiled them up in the same way, ending up with a good 2-3 litres of delicious chicken stock and a surprising amount of chicken, enough for a big pot of chicken broth, a risotto and arancini (little oven-cooked risotto balls the next day), plus a pasta dish – and another litre of stock in the freezer! There’s certainly never any need to go hungry…