Thursday, 28 October 2010

Fiendishly Hot, Gruesomely Garlicky, Halloween Ghoulash

We are three days short of Halloween, the night of the year loved most by Ghosts, Ghouls, Vampires and Witches of all types. Sunday is the night that they have free reign on an often defenceless world...or do they? What defences do we have against them? What can we do to ward off the evil spirits and entities that invade our domain? It is well known that vampires do not like daylight, crucifixes, or wooden stakes - but we can hardly incorporate any of them in our Halloween dinner! So what else can we try? Although I have eaten many wooden steaks (yes, I know) in my time - or at least steaks that have all the taste of wood - there is a better alternative. We can turn to Mother Nature herself and borrow her oft cruelly labelled, "Stinking rose." Picture the scene... Count Dracula is about to plunge his unforgiving fangs in to the neck of the fair and seemingly defenceless maiden when she turns and lets him have it with both barrels: garlic breath!!!

As Halloween is on a Sunday this year, more people are likely to have the time to prepare a special dinner to mark the occasion. Although the actual dinner is not traditionally an integral part of Halloween, I tend to think that anything and everything is an excuse for a special dinner! I am posting this recipe today, therefore, to give you a bit of time to assemble your ingredients, make your plans and join me in a feast of Fiendishly Hot, Gruesomely Garlicky, Halloween Ghoulash.

Goulash (as it is of course in fact spelled) is a Hungarian recipe by origin and not a Romanian recipe, where this version would perhaps be more effective against Count Dracula and his kin in Transylvania. Nevertheless, I hope that you will try it out and enjoy it every bit as much as I did.

Please note that this is probably the hottest dish I have ever featured on this blog and although it is not exactly in the vindaloo category, if you do not like overly spicy food, you may wish to use only one red chilli pepper.

This dish takes about two hours to make from start to finish. The main reason for this is that I like to use shin of beef in rich stews. This is not only because it is considerably less expensive but because, provided it is cooked for the alloted period of time, I genuinely believe it produces better results. If you do choose to use a better quality steak for some reason, you can reduce the overall cooking time by half.

Ingredients for Two People
1/2lb shin of beef
2 red bell peppers (one green and one red)
1 small onion
1 medium potato
14oz can chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
6 small closed cup mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic
2 red chilli peppers (please remember point above!)
1 pint of fresh beef stock
1/2 tsp ground paprika
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


The first step is to get the shin of beef started cooking. Cut it in to bite sized pieces but do not cut away or discard any of the fat. Fat and marbling are not only flavour, in a long cooking stew of this type, they are essential to stop the meat from drying out and becoming tough. Brown the beef in a large, dry pot, before adding the beef stock and the potato. The reason I am adding the potato so early is because I want it to break down and essentially assist in thickening the liquid component of the finished dish.

While the stock is heating towards a simmer, very finely chop the garlic and the chilli peppers. They should then be added to the simmering stock, along with the tinned tomatoes and the paprika. The mixture should then be left to simmer gently for one hour, stirring occasionally.

The onion, the mushrooms and the bell peppers are essentially going to form the body of the goulash, along with the beef. After the beef, tomatoes and potatoes have been simmering for an hour, the onion should be peeled and quartered, the bell peppers deseeded and chopped and both added to the pot with the de-stalked only mushrooms.

The ingredients should all now be given a thorough stir and left to simmer for a further half hour. Note that I do not season dishes of this type until the very end, as salt draws the moisture from meats during long cooking processes and makes it tough. At the end of the cooking time only, therefore, season, taste - and if necessary, season again.

Goulash is very often served with rice but because I have included potato in this recipe to give it extra body, I prefer to simply serve it with a plate of fresh, crusty bread, for diners to help themselves.

I gave the dish a final garnish of some roughly chopped basil and one more closed cup mushroom.


  1. Great recipe and wonderful pictures. Thanks for sharing. I'm going to double your recipe and my family will all enjoy this dish.

    I always seem to be "winging" it for a dinner entree so I signed up for a free trial menu club. It's by Gigi Centaro who is the author of "Let's Cook Tonight". I think this is going to really help me plan and serve nutritious meals for my family.

  2. Fun posting - I am going to link to your blog for a Halloween article I am writing and have noted all that wonderful garlic in your g(h)oulash.