Sauerkraut, or sour cabbage, has been made in Europe for centuries, ensuring the precious vitamin C and other nutrients during the Winter. Thinly sliced, fermented cabbage is used in a variety of hearty dishes or eaten uncooked in pleasantly tangy salads. Even though it’s not my daily fare, I like both raw and cooked sauerkraut and usually start seriously craving it when it gets colder. Thanks to Kelly (Inspired Edibles) I know now that sauerkraut’s lactic acid bacteria enhance my natural immune system. Thank you Kelly for your professional remark!
Some people are put off the sauerkraut and are afraid even to taste it mainly because in many countries (like France or Switzerland) it is served as a disgusting undercooked, under-seasoned heap, with sausages and fatty pork cuts. Low-fat, spicy and aromatic, Székely Gulyàs is the exact opposite. When I first saw it browsing through Zsuzsa’s recipes (Zsuzsa is in the kitchen) I instantly knew I would love it as much as all the Hungarian dishes I had tasted or cooked.
Székely Gulyàs (pronounced “see-cay goo-yash”) is thicker than the famous gulyàs and there is a doubt about the “székely” name. Some people say it comes from an ethnic group called “Székely”, who still lives in the present Romania, others – like Kàroly Gundel, a famous Hungarian cook- say it was named after a writer Jozsef Székely, whom Gundel calls the “godfather” of this stew. Apparently traditionally Székely Gulyàs called for three kinds of meat, but now people use only one. Whatever the origins and history, this is a perfect dish for cold days: hearty, but low-fat and with the enticing aroma mainly due to the Hungarian sweet paprika. It is traditionally served with sour cream, but I find it equally delicious with thick sour milk I replace sour cream with.
I have slightly simplified Zsuzsa’s recipe, omitting the oven baking stage, but in spite of these changes, my Szekély Gulyàs was excellent. Thank you, Zsuzsa for one more delightful Hungarian culinary discovery!
Like many stews, this one gets at least twice as good when reheated the following day. Actually it improves every time it’s reheated.
Do not throw away the liquid drained from the sauerkraut. You can add it during the cooking process if you feel your dish is not tangy enough. Personally I love my sauerkraut dishes very tangy, so I don’t even drain the liquid most of the time.
Preparation: about 2 hours (but it’s definitely best reheated the following day)
Ingredients (serves 2):
300 g lean pork
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 small onion
1 big garlic clove
300-350 ml sauerkraut (raw, not cooked)
3 tablespoons Hungarian sweet dried paprika (
(1 tablespoon hot Hungarian paprika)
1-2 tablespoons oil
sour cream or milk
Drain the sauerkraut, but don’t throw away the liquid (see the TIP above).
Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces.
Chop the onion and the garlic.
Fry the onion until soft.
Add the meat and fry it until golden brown.
Take the pan from the heat, add the spices and the garlic, 125 ml (1/2 cup) water.
(Add hot paprika to taste or skip it if you don’t want a fiery dish.)
Lower the heat and simmer the meat covered for one hour.
Take off the lid, add the sauerkraut and some more hot water to cover the whole dish.
Continue to simmer first uncovered, then, after 30 minutes, covered for about 1 hour in total.
Serve immediately with a splash with sour cream or sour milk or let it cool down, refrigerate overnight and serve it reheated the following day.