Archives for category: A Taste of Hungary

Our recent trip to the Maryland Renaissance Festival, plus the gorgeous cool fall weather rolling in, combined with my not-so-gorgeous fall cold, has got me on a serious soup kick.  It’s been weeks, and soup is all I want (the cool new soup bowls we picked up at Ren Fest aren’t helping the matter).  Of course, the best most comforting soup in the world- especially when you’re sick- is chicken noodle, and I think Hungarian Goulash is like chicken noodle soup on crack.  It’s more of a hearty stew, and it still has the traditional onions, carrots, and celery; but instead of “chicken” it has “beef” (which in the imitation meat world are more or less the same thing, but I digress…), instead of egg noodles it has noodle-y dumplings, and on top of that, it has POTATOES and lots, lots, lots of PAPRIKA.  Could anything be more delicious?

Onions + Seitan + Paprika

The answer, my friends, is no.  It is supreme deliciousness.  And best of all, it is easy to make.  So far, all the traditional Hungarian recipes I have shared with you have involved making tricky pastry dough, and may have been mildly intimidating.  But there isn’t any pastry dough here, just some simple noodle-dumplings.  That’s the hardest part, and it’s not hard!

The finished dough

I seriously encourage you to try this recipe TONIGHT.  Not tomorrow night, not next week- TONIGHT.  I am so happy with how it turned out that I did a little jig.  I think Grandma would have been proud.  This also happens to be one of the first recipes I have ever created myself, and I think that in itself is cool.  The fact that my vegetarian version of Goulash tastes fairly authentic is even cooler.

Right after I finished adding the noodles/dumplings

In the Hungarian recipe book, A Taste of Hungary, it says that “These recipes have not been laboratory tested, but their merit has been approved by the most critical of groups- HUNGARIAN HUSBANDS.”  I do not have a Hungarian husband, but I do have a first generation American-born Hungarian father.  So now I just have to wait until November, when my parents visit, for the true test: feeding this vegetarian version to him!

My Dad and Grandma, circa 1970's(?)

Last but not least, I humbly ask you for your honest feedback on this recipe.  Tell me what you liked; tell me what you would change.  Tell me how it compares to meat Goulash.  Tell me if the directions were easy to follow.  Tell me EVERYTHING!  Misha and I felt that the texture of the seitan might be a bit off for this dish, and that maybe next time I should try making it with Lightlife’s Seasoned “Beef” Strips.  I felt that it could use double the amount of dumplings.  Misha added the smoked sea salt and it really brought out a meatier flavor.  Just please share anything and everything you think with me, and together we can perfect this vegetarian Goulash!

Grandma Elek’s Hungarian Goulash

16 oz. cubed seitan (I used two 8 oz packages of the West Soy brand cubed seitan)

1 large sweet onion, chopped

4 carrots, sliced

4 stalks celery, sliced

2 medium golden potatoes, diced (I used 3 smaller potatoes- it’s up to you!)

Parsley, chopped fine (Note added on 11/9/11: If you can find parsley root, use it as well- it is a traditional ingredient that is hard to find these days, and will give your goulash a truly authentic, deep flavor!)

Sweet Hungarian Paprika (Get authentic Hungarian paprika- Szego Szeged brand is inexpensive and easy to find)

Organic Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base

3 tablespoons olive oil

Smoked sea salt (if you can get it)


For noodles/dumplings:

1 egg

½ tsp. salt

About 2 cups of all-purpose flour

In a large pot, sauté the onions in olive oil until transparent.  Add the seitan, along with any juices that are in the packaging.  COVER the onions and seitan in paprika- be generous- the more paprika, the better.  Add about a half a cup of water and let simmer for 3-5 minutes.

Add the vegetables, the parsley, 2 quarts of water, and 3 tablespoons of bouillon, stirring everything together.  Turn the heat to high, cover, and let come to a boil.

While the pot is heating, make the dough for the noodles.  Beat the egg and salt together in a medium size bowl.  Start adding flour, beating in between, until a solid dough forms.  Keep adding flour until you can handle the dough without too much sticking.

Once the pot has come to a boil, start pinching small pieces of dough off, rolling them into little balls, and adding them to the pot.  They should be about the size of your fingertip.  Keep adding them until you run out of dough.  Cook slowly until the noodles/dumplings taste done but not mushy.  Add smoked sea salt (or regular salt if you can’t get the smoked variety) and pepper to taste.  Store leftovers in the refrigerator- tastes even better the next day!


On a grey, rainy spring day, with Norah Jones crooning in the background, I set about making one of the most amazing coffee cakes ever.  Technically it’s not really coffee cake, it’s more like monkey bread.  It’s Arany Galuska, or Hungarian Sweet Dough.  It’s made up of soft, melt-in-your-mouth dough dipped in butter, sugar, and nuts and then baked in a tube pan.  This bread/cake is perfect for breakfast, with hot tea or coffee, but I love to eat it at all times of the day- if it’s sitting around the house, I just have to have some.

I had to spend a little time deciphering my Grandmother’s handwritten recipe.  For example, I didn’t know how to “scald” milk, a term that was probably pretty common to her and which I easily found in Joy of Cooking– but I had never heard it before.  Scalded milk is milk that has been heated to 82 C/180 F, the temperature at which bacteria and enzymes in the milk are destroyed.  With the level of pasteurization in our milk today it’s not really necessary to scald milk much anymore, but I did it anyway to be true to the recipe- Grandma said it was needed “to make a soft dough”.

Dough in the early stage- see how sticky it looks?

The next issue came during the “beating the dough” stage.  Once you’ve combined all of the ingredients with the flour you “beat until dough is smooth and leaves side of bowl”.   Well I started beating, and the dough was JUST SO STICKY.  In the recipe, Grandma says to have an extra cup of flour on hand “if you’ll need it”- I ended up using at least 3 extra cups!  My Dad said, “Honey, you might have over done it”, but really I had no choice- I had to keep adding flour or the dough would never have left the side of the bowl.  Even then I had to beat the dough for a long time to get it smooth.  Norah Jones was singing, “Once it has begun, won’t stop until it’s done”, and so I just kept on beating until it was done!

Much better- with lots more flour in it

Cutting and dipping station

Once I put it in to bake, I was relieved and excited, hoping it would come out ok despite all the extra flour.  However I had one more unforeseen challenge to overcome:  I filled the pan too high and the butter started bubbling and dripping out the top, causing smoke to start filling my apartment and setting my fire alarm off!  So I had to stand there and fan my fire alarm till enough smoke had evaporated that I could safely leave and run the Arany Galuska half-baked across the street to Misha’s sister Jacoba’s apartment to finish baking it there (with a pan under it this time, of course).

Filling the pan

Finished and ready to eat!

And after all that, it turned out PERFECT.  The dough couldn’t have been softer or sweeter.  I highly recommend you make this recipe ASAP and enjoy it during your next Sunday brunch!

Grandma Elek’s Arany Galuska: Hungarian Sweet Dough

6-9 cups all-purpose flour

2 pkg. dry yeast (Red Star is my favorite)

½ cup warm water (just barely warm to the touch- this is for the yeast, and if it is too hot it will kill the yeast)

½ cup of butter (1 stick) at room temperature

1 cup sour cream

¾ cup sugar (Grandma says, “less if you prefer”)

1 tsp. salt

3 eggs

1 cup scalded milk “to make a soft dough”

For dipping the dough:

1-2 melted sticks of butter

2 cups of sugar

2 cups finely chopped pecans

A pinch of cinnamon (this is not from Grandma’s recipe- I added this, and then later saw that it is included in the Taste of Hungary recipe book I sometimes use)

*You may need more or less of the dipping ingredients, depending on how many dough balls you make

Put six cups of flour in a very large bowl.  Make a “well” (a big hole) in the center of the flour and set aside.  Activate your yeast in the warm water according to the directions on the package and set aside to rise.  Scald milk and remove from heat.  Add sugar, salt, butter, and sour cream to the milk and stir.  Place milk mixture in the flour “well”, break in eggs and add yeast last.  With a large wooden spoon mi x and start to beat until the dough is smooth and leaves the side of the bowl.  Be sure to keep the dough soft and don’t let it “catch cold” (no drafts)*.  (*I think what she means is just to keep the dough warm and supple- it should feel soft and pliant in your hands as you work it.  This is where you may need a few extra cups of flour to get the right consistency.  I ended up kneading the dough more than beating it- you really need A LOT of upper body strength to beat it to the right consistency.)

Cover the dough in the bowl with oiled wax paper and a towel and let rise in a warm place (the oven is a great place to let dough rise- just don’t forget it’s in there and turn it on!) till double in size- about 1 hour.  In the meantime, “get your nuts ground & butter melted”.  Melt butter in the microwave in a small bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix finely chopped nuts and sugar.

When the dough is ready, put out on lightly floured board (I kept mine in the bowl) and keep warm with a towel.  Pull some off and start cutting into small rounds “about the size of a whiskey glass” (To me, that might be a bit big- I think she means a shot glass).  Dip the rounds into the melted butter, then into the nuts and sugar.  Place into ungreased tube pan (I used a fluted bundt pan and greased it a bit, but really the greasing is not necessary- I was just worried it would stick since the bundt pan I was using wasn’t nonstick) lightly, not too close, then keep putting layers in until half full (I filled it all the way- probably why it overflowed).  Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size (mine didn’t rise too much the second time).  Place on shelf in oven a little below half.  Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes till nice and golden.  Let cool in pan- make sure you eat at least one warm piece!- then turn out on a cake dish and enjoy!

**Remember: if you ever have any questions about any of the steps in the recipes I write, please just comment or email me and I will be more than happy to help!!!!!**