January 2, 2013
As they say, if you can’t write a post on the first day of the year, do it on the second. So here goes:
The mercury went on a tailspin from the last week of 2012, and on the 30th, after entertaining guests till the evening, the empty house suddenly felt cold and miserable like a Yorkshire moor. The television did nothing to lift my spirits and i found the kitchen, still swirling with warm flovours of the mutton curry i cooked in the afternoon, inviting.
What now, i asked myself, after switching on the room heater. What would Heathcliff have done were he trapped in a freezing mansion? Pine for Catherine? Nah, a voice told me from within: He would have cranked up the oven and made a pot of Hungarian goulash to keep warm and cheerful!
Now, i did never attempt a goulash before, though i had a nice bowl of it with rice at Taj hotel, Agra. All i could remember was it had a liberal helping of stewed diced carrots and onion rings and that the mutton (they didn’t serve the authentic beef version) was unusually tender.
Determined not to look up the net, i started dicing carrots, onions, tomatoes and garlic pods. There’s a confession for the gastronomic purists: there was no paprika at home, though the mutton chunks were already tender after being marinated in yoghurt for 24 hours.
This, though, was a challenge in itself: the goulash I was to make would take on the flavour of curd; simply put, it could turn into an Indian curry instead of a continental stew. I needed something to neutralize and then overwhelm the curd. What could it be?
The answer lay in the glass in my hand: cabarnet shiraz — Sula’s medium-bodied peppery red wine.
The pan was heated in a jiffy and in went the onion and garlic followed by the tomato. A stir later, i sprinkled a liberal helping of oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, parsley and pepper to add a Italian twist to was to come. In went the mutton and after five minutes of lightly stir frying it, i poured about six ounces of the wine and an equal quantity of water, just enough to drown the meat. Covering the pan, i let the thing simmer for 45 minutes during which, ahhh, the house started smelling of winey meat and i instantly felt a tad warmer! A couple of chillies slit down the middle and a sprinkling of salt was added and so were another six ounces of wine or so and three cups of water. After an hour of further simmer — yes, you need to be patient because slow cooking takes time — the goulash or whatever you call it, was ready to be had with a baguette.
The next day, i looked up an authentic recipe of Hungarian goulash, though by then it was too late or “too good”, as a dear friend put it after polishing off a bowl of the stew with some fresh sesame bread.
A glance at the recipe (http://homepage.interaccess.com/~june4/goulash.html) of June Meyer whose mother is from Austria-Hungary, makes it clear how much i deviated, unknowingly so, from the authentic dish. But as they say, all’s well that tastes well!