Hungarian Beef Goulash

Tower Slow Cooker
Tower Slow Cooker

I love food. I love eating. However, I am also prone toward being rather lazy, and as a poor graduate have to make the most from the little I can afford. As a result, I am all for one pot dishes and am particularly fond of my slow cooker. However, if you do not have a slow cooker, this recipe is still for you as it can be cooked either on the hob or in the oven, which ever you desire!

Goulash is by one of the more familiar dishes from Eastern Europe. Made with sweet paprika, it is typical of many traditional Hungarian dishes. It would normally be cooked in an iron cast pot on top of a fire, but living in a studio flat in London makes this is somewhat impossible. Instead, I opt for cooking either in my casserole dish for at least three hours at 150 °C, or alternatively, in my slow cooker for between four and five hours on high. However, as I said, you could cook this on the hob, but with three jobs, I prefer to not have to keep too much of an eye on things!

You can just chuck everything into the pot and go but I try to make it a little more authentic. Onion, for example, is one ingredient which never quite has the same effect having been put in raw to the slow cooker.

First, prepare the ingredients which can be placed into either the casserole dish or slow cooker. Peel a carrot and parsnip and place into the dish. Leave them whole as they are just for flavour, not for eating. Peel and cut a large white potato into cubes and place this in the dish too. Add a bay leaf (two if they are small) and some parsley tied together so it can be easily removed (if you do not have string, use some foil).

Dice a large white onion and cook in a small amount of olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Traditionally, goose fat should be used, but I find this can make the sauce too greasy. Cook the onion until it is translucent (not brown!), add in the chopped garlic for one minute, and then add half the paprika. Pour the onion, garlic and paprika into the pot with the carrot etc.

Onion in pan

Sprinkle the stewing beef chunks with a little corn flour (though plain flour can also be used) and place into a frying pan over a medium heat. Do not brown this too much, just a little, to seal in the juices. Sprinkle on the rest of the paprika and cook for a further minute and then add this into the pot.

Beef in pan

Ready to go!
Ready to go!

Add two teaspoons of caraway seeds into the frying pan and heat gently for two minutes. Put these into the pot and then rinse out the frying pan with a little of the beef stock. I add this and the remaining stock into the pot.

Cut two medium sized tomatoes and two sweet peppers into chunks and place these into the pot with two or three teaspoons of tomato puree.

Cover and heat either in the oven, in your slow cooker, or on top of a hob.

The stock may need topping up if a lot evapourates/is absorbed.

I serve this with gnocchi and a sprinkle of parsley in a nice large bowl.

Ingredients to feed 2 very hungry people:

500g stewing beef chunks

500 ml beef stock

1 bay leaf

1 carrot

1 parsnip

1 large white onion

1 large white potato

2 cloves of garlic

2 medium sized tomatoes

2 sweet red peppers

2-3 tsp tomato puree

4 tsp sweet paprika

2tsp caraway seeds

2 handfuls of parsley

Gnocchi to serve

Cooking times:

3 hours on low heat on hob

4 hours 150 °C oven (although, the longer the better!)

4-6 hours on high in slow cooker (again, the longer the better!)

Finished product!


Washing up
Washing up

Hard work?  Well, I will not lie, any form of cooking requires effort and drive but here is the washing up I was left with – hardly a mountain!

And to prove you do not need a mansion in order to cook for yourself, this is my small kitchen in my studio flat.  If I can do it, so can you!

Kitchen left
Kitchen left
Kitchen right
Kitchen right

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Domaine Danubiane Sauvignon Blanc 2007

domaine-danubianeAlthough not a country to usually pop to the forefront of one’s mind when considering notorious wine producing countries, Romania has in fact been producing wine since the 7 BC.  It would shock you to put, what most would consider one of the European Union’s poorest and most backward countries, on a par with Portugal for sheer quantity of square metres of vines, but this is indeed the case.

This particular bottle hails from the town of Turnu Severin, formerly known as the ancient city of Drobeta which took its name from the tower built to commemorate the death of the Roman emperor, Septimus Sever.  The cellar is run by Italian winemaker, Fiorenzo Rista, who after gaining vital experience in northern Italy, came to Romania, fell in love with a Romanian woman (now his wife) and never returned home.

The Domaine Danubiane is a crisp aromatic white produced purely from Sauvignon Blanc. The cool climate of Vanju Mare has ensured it is packed full of grassy herbal aromas, a characteristic of many East European tipples, in addition to boasting vibrant gooseberry tones and lively passion fruit flavours.

While, the Domaine Danubian Sauvignon Blanc would not suit the palette of those who prefer to drink a very dry Pinot Grigio or Chablis unaccompanied, it will prove a particularly pleasing purchase for those who desire to indulge in seafood, particularly oysters, moules marinierès or grilled white fish.

Read more…

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Burek in Bayswater


When I was in Sarajevo, a Slovene friend text me to instruct me I must do two things, buy some fake designer clothes/accessories (which, as I had been travelling for a month and had already accumulated rather a lot of luggage along the way, I did not do) and to eat some Burek (which I did with pleasure).  I tend to tell people, I only go on holiday for the food, and to an extent, that really is true.  The relaxation, the adventure, the shopping, the culture, the people, all come a firm second place to potential culinary exploration.

Sarajevo is a very beautiful city, although my first experience there was encountering a man try to pickpocket me while I got onto the tram at the train station.  However, as many Bosnians speak English, after me announcing what he had tried to do to a packed tram of locals, he promptly got up and left before we departed the train station for the centre of town.  I stayed just off Pigeon Square, right in the thick of it, surrounded by mosques and their minarets and the constant smells of baked bread and grilled meats.

One lunchtime I sat myself down at a restaurant on one of the main roads in the Old Town, not far from Pigeon Square.  I diligently ordered a meat and a salty cheese and spinach burek.  Both were delicious.  Burek is made from a baked or fried pastry and can have various fillings.  Sweet versions are also on offer.


Some months ago, while walking in Notting Hill, I noticed a sign on a window which read, “Burek £2.60”.  Manzara, a small restaurant on Pembridge Road in Notting Hill, looks nothing more than a small pizzeria and patisserie, but the delights inside are something to indulge in on a Saturday afternoon after searching the treasure trove of Portobello Market.  A few weeks ago, we had some rather lovely weather one weekend and as, for once, I had little to do, I popped down to Notting Hill to investigate the burek on offer.


A generous portion of spinach and cheese burek from Manzara, 24 Pembridge Road in Notting Hill, costs just £2.60.

This restaurant is actually Turkish, (burek comes from the Ottoman Empire which is why it is popular in both Turkey and Bosnia), and while I cannot speak for the rest of the menu (although the food does look good when you walk in) the burek is delicious.  Unfortunately, they currently only offer spinach and cheese burek, and although the cheese is not quite as salty as the one I tasted in Sarajevo, it is perfect to munch on either wandering the streets, at home (if you can wait that long) or in their, fully-licensed, small, restaurant.

Kalinka Shop (Калинка магазин), Queensway

Kalinka Shop, 35 Queensway
Kalinka Shop, 35 Queensway

Five years ago, when I first moved to London, I was rather fortunate to move Bayswater, which, although traditionally famed for boasting fantastic Middle Eastern shops and restaurants, is also home to a small Russian shop, located just ten minutes from my front door.

This was before the days when, as a result of a dramatic increase in migration to the UK from the  countries accepted into the EU in 2004, Tesco stocked a vast variety of Polish food and various East European shops had sprung up across the country.

Kalinka Shop (Калинка магазин) can be found at 35, Queensway, London, W2.  It is open from 11 AM to 8 PM Monday to Saturday and 12 to 6 PM on Sunday.  The shop stocks everything you could ever imagine of Russian (and some other East European countries) origin.

When I first came to London, I happened across the shop because I used to walk to and from Queensway Tube Station every day.  My interest in Russian history was growing and I entered out of curiosity.  On entering I was faced with products from floor to ceiling labelled in Russian.  This is partly why I love London, particularly Bayswater.  For me, when you are here, it never really feels like you are in the UK, it always feels like you are on holiday, exploring some foreign land and their produce.

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Luksusowa Potato Vodka – On Offer at Waitrose Now!

Luksusowa 700 ml
Luksusowa 700 ml

I popped into Waitrose yesterday in order to stock up my rather bare cupboards and while I was gleefully gliding past the alcohol aisle with a basket full of goodies on my arm, something caught my eye.  Waitrose, or at least my Waitrose (though I would imagine this is a nationwide decision) are discontinuing their contract to stock Luksusowa Vodka.  The 700 ml bottle of triple distilled vodka, blended with artesian well water and winner of four gold medals is on offer for just £12.99.

Most people, have at some point, probably during their youth, had an unfortunate encounter with vodka.  I hold my hands up to this rather foolish moment, where one too many double vodka and cokes got the better of me.  Since then, and no doubt like many others, I had not touched vodka, until during my second year at university, during a particularly stressful time, my very good friend, Victoria, took me to Bar Polski (formerly Na Zdrowie).  I had been there previously, but had never indulged in the vodka, fearful and reminiscent of my first encounter.  However, that night out changed everything.  Finally, I learned vodka could be enjoyed, if drunk responsibly.  This is the key, do as the Russians do, drink vodka, neat if you desire, but make sure you are snacking constantly.  (Note, I am not recommending drinking during times of crises, but rather, turning to your friends for support, my discovery of the beauty of vodka was simply an added bonus in my case!)  Since that fateful night at Bar Polski, I have been able to enjoy many a vodka (although some should be avoided, I would personally not recommend a cherry vodka, but then what is gold for one can appear as nothing more than a mere spec of dust to another).

Many people will say that vodka has no taste.  However, I do not believe this is the case.  Many have quite a powerful, harsh taste and kickback.  Yet, others can have little character at all.  Luksusowa, the Polish word for luxury, had a distinct taste which is a result of its potato base.  Many vodkas are distilled from corn, or rye, but Luksusowa is made from a selective potato crop in Poland, grown exclusively in the Baltic coast region of North Poland.  The result is a smooth texture and rich taste.

I have never tried Luksusowa before but I found it particularly smooth and pleasing to the palette neat.  However, if you would rather water it down, my preference would be to mix one part vodka to one part dry vermouth, add a dash of orange bitters, shake with ice and serve with an olive, and lemon or orange twist.  Hey presto, you have yourself a Vodka Rockefeller!  A rather ironic name, for a name of a cocktail of which the basis is the favourite tipple of the former USSR!  However, if you want to keep it exclusively East European, try a Berlin Wall.  Mix 3 parts Luksusowa with 1 part schnapps and 1/2 part of black sambuca.  Shake with ice, strain and garnish with fresh blackberries.

Vodka has been produced for over 600 hundred years.  The origin of its production is often disputed and many claim it has its roots in Russia.  However, it is commonly believed to have been a Polish invention.  During the 16th and 17th Centuries, vodka was not only used as a bartering tool, but also for medicinal properties, particularly when mixed with herbs.  During the 18th Century, Polish exportation of vodka to Russia began on a mass scale.

Luksusowa also offer two flavoured vodkas: Citron and Wild Berry.
Luksusowa Potato Vodka, 40% alcohol, is currently on clearance offer at Waitrose for just £12.99.  Buy it now before they run out!

The Luksusowa Potato Vodka website can be found at

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Na Zdrowie v. Bar Polski

Wycinianki traditional theme
Wycinianki traditional theme

Since 2007 London restauranteurs have suffered devastating losses and been forced to terminate service.  However, those left standing with a reliable clientele have been fortunate and wise to undergo significant, and much needed facelifts, dragging them kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. However, the change at Bar Polski can be described as subtle at most. Formerly known as Na Zdrowie, the management have finally realised that the majority of its clientele are incompetent! Incapable of pronouncing the Polish word for ‘cheers’, many opted simply to refer to it as, The Polish Bar. As a compromise, the management have renamed the bar-restaurant, Bar Polski. The name change appears to be where any difference ends and Bar Polski continues to effectively cater for Eastern European enthusiasts and less knowledgeable Londoners alike.

With its only remotely close landmark being a Pret à Manger, Bar Polski is hidden down a backstreet in Holborn and unless actively seeking it out, one is highly unlikely to find it. However, it is definitely worth taking some friends on an adventure in order to discover it. Chic sparse décor, black leather seating and basic grey tables are juxtaposed with colourful traditional folk motifs and cockerels painted on the walls. The latter of which provides a great deal of amusement to those with little knowledge of wycinianki style and Polish traditions.

If you want to sample some traditional Polish food it is best to visit Bar Polski during the week from 8 P.M. onwards, when the post-work drinkers are leaving, and you are able to acquire a table. In a similar way to Spanish tapas or Greek meze, the food at Bar Polski is served in a way that is perfect for sharing among a large, ravenous group of people.

Enjoying a raspberry vodka and lemonade
Enjoying a raspberry vodka and lemonade

For a relatively small bar-restaurant, Bar Polski offers quite an extensive range of Polish food. The mixed fried pierogi (dumplings) stuffed with meat, cabbage and cheese are served on large white plates with three dips, one of which is indistinguishable. The pierogi stuffed with meat and pierogi stuffed with cabbage are delicious. Unfortunately the pierogi filled with cheese curd is somewhat disappointing. If unfamiliar with Polish food it is very important to remember when ordering pierogi to ask for the fried version because the boiled version may well put you off Polish food for life. This is not the fault of the chef at Bar Polski, simply a problem that arises from the method of cooking; boiling any food turns it into a slime-like substance.

Nonetheless, the vast majority of the menu will certainly not let you down.One plate not to be missed is the Bigos, a stew of sauerkraut, fresh cabbage, mixed meats and seasonings, served with rye bread.

All of this can be washed down with any of the beers on the menu or if you are feeling a little more adventurous sample some of the vodkas which are categorised into ‘dry and interesting’ and ‘nice and sweet’.For the hardy among you a shot of any vodka on the menu will compliment the food.However, if you would rather drink vodka ask any of the helpful Polish staff which mixer they think goes best with each one.They will always endeavour to help you.

Bar Polski is at 11 Little Turnstile, Holborn, WC1V 7DX (tel: 020 7831 9679).

Drinks, lunch or dinner. Food served until 10 P.M. No bookings accepted.

Takeaway service available.


Who to know: John, the owner. He has been known to wrestle with pickpockets to prevent inebriated customers are not mugged.

What to know: If you come to a SSEES event at Bar Polski you will enjoy plenty of free food.

What to eat: Pierogi, Bigos.

What to drink: Beers including: Zywiec, Lech and Tyskie; around fifty types of vodka.

Spotted: Current and former SSEES students and staff!

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Don’t be too hungry for Hungarian… at least not in London!

The Gay Hussar stands just off Soho Square, in a beautiful Georgian townhouse, and has been serving Hungarian specialities and fine wines to Eastern European enthusiasts for over fifty years. It is worth visiting The Gay Hussar simply for the exterior and interior décor. Inside the ivy-covered chocolate box shop exterior awaits a small room of tightly packed wooden tables (albeit with decadent tableware!) and low lighting, making you feel like one has simply stepped in from a backstreet off Váci Utca itself.

Having been feeding journalists, politicians, artists and historians for so many years, the walls boast the restaurant’s trademark caricatures, not to mention an extensive selection of books, including Norman Davies’ Europe: A History. Among the tableware can be found a delicious and complimentary selection of bread, including walnut, which must not be missed!

The mixed Hungarian Salami, £4.95, is delicious for those who revel in spicy meat and the smoked Hungarian sausage, £4.15, is enhanced by the presence of a very fresh horseradish condiment. Without doubt the best starter on the modest menu is the beef goulash soup, £4.50: peppers, potatoes and beef. This will certainly warm you up on a cold day! Wonderful Hungarian starters are unfortunately where the love and enjoyment of your experience will end.

The galuska (the Hungarian version of gnocchi) accompanying both the borjú pörkölt (veal goulash stew), £15.25, and the csirke paprikás (chicken in a creamy paprika sauce), £12.95, is most disappointing with an odd taste and unpleasant texture. Vegetarians will fare no better being presented with a pepper stuffed with yet more pepper, £9.50. While the décor and to an extent, the starters, will remind a Hungarian of pleasant times in their homeland, the main courses will only serve to shatter any joyous illusions.

Thankfully, the wine list will help you forget, or at least wash down, the unfortunate main courses. The Jozsef Bock Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, £31.50, will enhance any dish on the menu. The rich, dark and deep oak flavour that the Bock family have been creating so well since the 1800s will send you home with a smile on your face. Unfortunately, the combination of the spicy food, red wine, and sheer heat of the restaurant means you will also go home hotter than hell itself. Layers are therefore imperative if one plans to visit The Gay Hussar!

The Gay Hussar!

The Gay Hussar is at 2 Greek Street, Soho, London, W1D 4NB (tel: 020 7831 9679)

Lunch and dinner available.

Booking recommended.


To know: Take a woman, or better still, women make sure you leave your men at home.  Being female in this establishment means plenty of attention and a possible discount on the bill!

To eat: Beef goulash soup

To drink:Jozsef Bock Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 £31.50

Spotted: Lord Hestletine, Boris Johnson, Jon Snow.

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