this is one of the quintessential autumn comfy foods that I cook every year. Since we would go picking mushrooms in autumn, I associate fall with mushrooms. And thus crave this dish. It is a Croatian version of goulash, and uses bacon as a main fat. On fat rendered out of bacon we brown the meat and mushrooms (if I remember them on time 🙂 ) and sauté the onions. This gives the goulash a beautiful smokey flavour. There is no flour in this dish and it is gluten-free.
3 large onions
1 kg (2lb) meat (can be mixed meat, I usually use beef, but wild meats are super delicious in this dish)
1/2 kg (1 lb) mushrooms of your choice ( I use buttons now but I also use chanterelles or porcini’s)
1 thick strip of smoked bacon
1-2 garlic cloves
5 juniper berries
2 bay leaves
cayenne pepper (or up to 1 Tbsp hot paprika)
2 Tbsp sweet paprika
1 cup dry wine or 2 Tbsp wine vinegar
4 cups (1 L) water
Start by dicing your bacon into 1/4″ (0.5cm) sided dice. Then put it into the big pot on a just a little bit of oil to prevent the bacon from burning or sticking to the pot. Heat should be on medium. Then start dicing your meat into 1/2″ (1 cm) big dice. Remember to stir the bacon occasionally. When your bacon is almost completely browned, add meat and increase the heat to medium high. Brown the meat until browned to your liking.
While meat is browning chop up your onions into the same size dices as bacon. Remember to stir meat occasionally.
Chop your mushrooms into the a bit bigger size then you have your meat. The meat should be all browned now, so take the meat out of the pot and quickly brown the mushrooms. When the mushrooms are brown take them out of the pot and sauté the onions until they are completely translucent and brown.
If you like me, forget your mushrooms. Then when the meat is browned, take it out of the pot and sauté the onions until brown. In this case you will add your mushrooms after you have added the liquid.
Adding spices and liquid
When the onions are brown add back the meat and the browned mushrooms (or just meat, in case you opted for the 2nd version). If you are using wine, add the wine and deglaze the pot.
Add bay leaves, sweet paprika and cayenne (and or hot paprika). Give it a quick stir and then add in all of your water.
Chop the garlic, and add it to the pot. And in case you did not brown the mushrooms add them now. Let it cook covered with a lid on medium heat for next 2 hours.
Reducing the liquid
After 2 hours of cooking time goulash should be ready for reduction. It is ready to be reduced in case all the onions are dissolved into the liquid, and the meat should be super tender. Before I start reducing the goulash I add one last spice – juniper berries. You can lightly crush them if you want more flavour. But my grumpy is not thrilled with them, so I use them just enough to flavour the dish lightly. Maybe in time he will get to like them more.
Reducing is super easy. Take the lid out, and slightly reduce the heat. Then leave it to bubble away until thick enough. I prefer my goulash a bit thicker then some people. So there is no real rule for how much you should reduce it. Maybe 10 minutes would be enough for you. When the goulash is reduced enough adjust the salt and pepper seasoning and serve. If you are using vinegar instead of wine, then add the vinegar here. Remember to taste. Add one by one spoon of vinegar if you are not certain how sour you want your dish. It should have a little bit of sourness. This really round up the flavour.
I remembered to video it so here is the video for the reference:
I serve this dish simply poured over the fresh pasta, preferably home made. You could also serve it over some gnocchi, but this is not my favourite version. Serving it with simple slice of bread is also fine. I prefer to put a dollop of sour cream atop. To make it more creamy. But this is optional. I hope you give this recipe a try. It is truly delicious and fills the home with autumnal flavour. ???