Middle Europe

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last updated 26th March 2000

Hungary Gulyas

This is one of Scrote's favourites, easy to cook, forgiving, very tasy and with that extra bit of flair that means you can serve it to guests. Gulyas is what we call a Goulash, but the word has gradually been debased until it has come to be a cookery-writer's hyperbole for any ill-conceived mess. In Austria and Hungary goulash is a meat soup or casserole of beef or pork flavoured with garlic, paprika, tomato and caraway seeds. The ingredient which makes it goulash and gives it its characteristic orange-red colour is the paprika, but caraway seeds are important too and very characteristic of the region- in Austria they even put caraway seeds in loaves of bread.

You need about a pound of meat- beef is usual, but pork can also be used, and although good meat is nice if you can afford it, cheap cuts also work well in a casserole. Prepare the meat- cut out any obviously horrible bits or excessive fat and cut it into cubes. Peel and chop an onion and a few cloves of garlic. Brown the meat fiercely in your cast-iron casserole in a little oil, then lower the heat and add the chopped onion and garlic. Next add a teaspoonful of Hungarian paprika. It must be Hungarian paprika, not anything else. Real paprika is made from a relative of the sweet red pepper dried and ground and is not hot, but the name is sometimes used for spices made from other ground red peppers, most of which are very hot, so make sure you have the authentic ingredient.

Stir the ingredients around and add a can of tinned tomatoes, chopped somewhat. Bring to the boil, adjust the liquid, season with salt and pepper and throw in a good pinch (a large pinch but not a teaspoonful) of caraway seeds whole.

Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for at least an hour depending on the quality of the meat, or casserole in the oven for an hour and a half, stirring occasionally and adjusting the liquid level.When the meat is soft and yielding, it is done. Serve the red Goulash in bowls with a big teaspoonful of fresh natural yoghurt dropped into the centre and boiled potatoes on the side. (Actually, soured cream is traditional, but yoghurt is less fattening and has a little more sharpness).

Poland Latkes

This is another favourite Scrotey dish- quick, easy and dead cheap.

Every so often Scrote cooks up a batch of these when he is in a hurry. Latke are a common-place all over middle Europe and Russia and travelled to Britain and America with Jewish immigrants. Unfortunately like a lot of fast food it is fried and somewhat greasy so you wouldn't want to eat it all the time. It is excellent winter food when you come in cold, a little hot meal in itself that you can eat as you cook it.

Peel several potatoes and grate the raw potatoes with a grater into a bowl. Add 2 eggs, & some matzo meal (or wholemeal flour) to reduce the liquidity a bit. Add some salt and pepper, and stir up the mixture thoroughly.

Meanwhile, warm your small frying pan with about half an inch of cooking oil in it. Get a dessertspoon and drop a spoonful of the mixture into the hot oil, then repeat so that you have about four or five going. Pat them down a bit with the back of the spoon but keep them separate from each other. Fry them quite gently for about 5 minutes on each side so that they are cooked right through, in batches. Serve and eat as they come out of the pan- they are best eaten immediately and don't keep hot well. These are basic latke, but you can also add grated onion or cheese to the mix to flavour them.