I moved to London from t’North in 1972, and shortly after that found myself renting, for £7 a week, an attic room off the bathroom of a house in Ashburnham Road, SW10. My housemates were 3 of the poshest people I had ever met and, even though I was barely house-trained, tolerated my drunken debauchery with almost unfailing good humour. Thanks to them and a nearby Italian deli, I discovered “foreign food”, and started to cook. It was around this time that I acquired my first 2 cookery books. I can’t say that I bought them, because the inscription inside the front cover suggests that I nicked Katherine Whitehorn’s depressingly titled “Cooking in a Bedsitter” from someone named Peter. The Best of Good Housekeeping was a gift from an optimistic and soon to be dumped boyfriend, who may also have been Peter, I can’t remember.
While “Cooking in a Bedsitter” is much more famous, and is written with some wit and style, the recipes are, on the whole, disgusting. The title of the first section, “Cooking to Stay Alive” sums it up, really. I only hang on to it in case “Peter” tracks me down and asks for his book back. However, I still refer to Good Housekeeping from time to time, and the goulash recipe here is loosely based on theirs. Back in the 70s of course *red and yellow peppers had not been invented, so we only used the green variety, and garlic was only used to repel vampires.
You will need:
700 g stewing steak cubed
3 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp hot paprika
small amount of freshly grated nutmeg (about a third of a clove)
large pinch of salt and 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 medium onions finely chopped
4 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 red, 1 green and 1 yellow pepper seeds removed, sliced.
2 tbsp tomato puree mixed with about 100 ml water
75 ml beer
handful of parsley finely chopped
2 tbsp sour cream (optional)
You also need a very large saucepan with a well fitting lid.
Place the flour, paprika, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a large resealable plastic food storage bag and add the beef. Shake it around until every piece of beef is coated with the flour/paprika mix.
Cover the bottom of the saucepan with cooking oil and fry the onions and garlic rapidly for a couple of minutes then turn down the heat, cover and sweat them for about 5 more minutes.
Add more oil, turn up the heat again and add the meat in about 3 batches, moving it around so that it seals. Add more oil of its getting sticky.
Once you’ve browned all the meat, add the beer, tomato puree + water and sliced peppers.
Stir it all around and, if it seems a little dry, add a bit of water. Don’t add too much water at this stage because the peppers will release some while they’re cooking. Turn down the heat to a very low simmer and cook for about an hour. Stir it every 10 minutes or so, and check that it isn’t sticking. If its too thick, add a little water.
After 45 minutes, taste a piece of meat with the liquid to check that it is tender and add more salt and pepper if needed. Add the chopped parsley and cook uncovered for the last 15 minutes. Stir in the sour cream, if you’re going to use it, just before serving .