The year was 2009. My first taste was accompanied with slight trepidation. After all, we're talking sauerkraut here - a dish not exactly known for it's universal appeal. I say "slight" though, since it was a rainy winter's day, lunch time was nearing and my tummy was feeling decidedly empty. The other food on offer at the German festival looked pretty appealing if you're a big fan of sausages (boy do those Germans looooove their sausage!) or potatoes.
It wasn't so much that I didn't like sausages, but the thought of a comforting stew sounded infinitely more appealing given the rain beating down outside. Especially if that stew had the potential to stretch my tastebuds out of the confines of my snuggly comfort zone.
So I took the plunge. Ordered a bowlful of szegediner gulazsch from the smiling lady working at the booth. She asked if I wanted regular or smoky paprika. I opted for regular, wanting to taste the other flavours to full effect without the interference of the complex smokiness that the paprika would add. If I remember correctly the gulazsch was also served with a potato dish of some sort (naturally). I thanked the lady, found a seat, counted to three and took my first bite. It was not at all what I expected. It was GOOD! Beside me TheHusband was making good inroads into a couple of piping hot bockwursts.
I had no regrets over my choice of lunch though. The stew was very saucy, laced with paprika, smothering insanely soft pork pieces. The sauerkraut had all but broken down and formed part of the sauce, giving it a lovely sour kick, not overpowering at all, just right. In fact, in that moment I could hardly think of a better partner for succulent pork than tangy sauerkraut.
I knew I had to attempt to recreate this at home. After all, I felt I owed it to my late gran - her dad immigrated to South Africa from Germany. Regretfully though, none of the German traditions and cuisine had been passed down to my dad and subsequently to me. And with gran long gone, I guess I'll never be able to get my hands on the real family recipes...
But, luckily we live in the 21st century. Viva internet! The internet was crawling with recipes for szegediner gulaszch, each one promising to be more authentic, more quintessentially "right" than the last. Some claimed to be staunchly German in origin, others proudly Hungarian, but truth be told, the recipes all looked pretty similar. I settled on one and made it within the next day or so. It was just as good as I remembered, yet I didn't blog about it at the time. I sat on the recipe instead, perhaps wanting to feel that it was somehow part of me, part of my heritage and not wanting to share it with the world at large who might not quite get how special it was to me.
Of course, that notion was ridiculous. Especially since the recipe was just too good to keep to myself. Especially now that winter has rolled around again, winds howling, rain blazing down, the whole hog. So, if you're in need of some comfort, and perhaps missing your own gran, make a pot of this gulaszch and celebrate mine with me. Prost!
Adapted from Active No-Carber (Mr. McD's recipe)
Serves 6 - 8
2 - 3 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
900g pork neck steak, cut into cubes
810g tin sauerkraut in white wine
3 cups water
3 tbsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp caraway seeds
1. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large casserole pan, then add the onions and fry over medium-low heat until soft and glazed looking.
2. Remove onions, then add more oil, turn up the heat slightly and brown the pork meat in a couple of batches.
3. Spoon all the meat and onions back into your pan, then add sauerkraut, water, paprika, salt and pepper and cook for 1 hour, covered, over low heat or until the meat is meltingly tender and the sauerkraut has almost broken down.
4. Stir sour cream and caraway seeds through the stew, taste and adjust seasoning, then cook for a further 15 minutes. Serve warm with rice, potatoes or dumplings.