Recipe 15: Gypsy Goulash

Being from Gypsy background on my Father’s side of the family I think I am entitled to speculate on what makes a good Gypsy Goulash or Stew. My great great great Grandfather’s family left Romania for France where they lived for a generation or two and finding the living hard settled in England somewhere in the mid to late 1800’s. As the living arrangements changed along the way so did the food and since cuisine is a product of the environment in which people live and thrive Gypsy cuisine is no different and likely harder to pin down. That being said a meal was often hard to come by and a plump roast hedgehog or rabbit stew would have been a welcomed dish on any evening. I for one would have a very hard time procuring a hedgehog in this neck of the woods (and truth be told not likely to want to eat it) but, rabbit is easily accessible. However, knowing most of you are probably just as squeamish about eating rabbit as hedgehog I’m going with Chicken. Pheasant is also a pleasant substitute if you are feeling adventurous. Goulash or stew is pretty much the same throughout the world. It is a combination of meat and vegetables with a gravy that is cooked for a long period of time to tenderize the contents of the pot. The slow cooking allows for the flavours to meld together and become a big, hot pleasing bowl of yumminess on a cold night.  Yes, those are my technical chef terms for this meal. It is simple and hearty and served up with a loaf of whole grain bread is very satisfying. So…if you feel a tug from your ancestors (you don’t have to be a Gypsy) as you prepare and eat this meal think about it’s origins and you will understand why.

Stews have been made since prehistoric times perhaps as far back as 1 million years ago. Herodotus says that the Scythians (8th to 4th centuries BC) “put the flesh into an animal’s paunch, mix water with it, and boil it like that over the bone fire. The bones burn very well, and the paunch easily contains all the meat once it has been stripped off. In this way an ox, or any other sacrificial beast, is ingeniously made to boil itself.”

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 to 2 and half hours
Total Time: 2 hours, 50 minutes


3/4 cup butter or margarine
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp marjoram,crushed
1tsp caraway seed, crushed
1 tsp grated lemon peel
1 clove garlic, crushed
6 Roma tomatoes chopped or1 small can tomato paste
1 lb onions, sliced
3 lb chicken, cut into chunks (I use a whole chicken and cut away the meat keeping the carcass for soup)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
3 cups water
2 green peppers cut into strips for a mild stew or a good sized green chili pepper chopped for a spicy stew


Heat the butter/margarine in a large pot on stove or in a kettle over an open fire.
Combine marjoram, caraway seed, lemon peel, and garlic; add to tomato chopped/paste then into the pot. Mix in the onions and cook, stirring occasionally until soft.
Sprinkle paprika over all and blend in well.
Add chicken that has been tossed in a mixture of the salt, pepper. Cook until chicken starts to brown. Add water and stir until all ingredients are combined.
Cover and simmer until meat is tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Just before serving, mix in green pepper/chili and cook, uncovered, about 5 minutes, or until crisp-tender.

FOOTNOTE:  I have said all there is to say. Now go and make this delicious meal and eat until you can eat no more and in the communal style of the Gypsies share it with your family and friends.

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