Salim’s Goulash

One day, many years ago, a friend stopped at my room in the Aaseehauskolleg in Münster, Germany and told me that Salim was making his famous goulash. The Aaseehaus was a Studentenheim. It was a combination dormitory, fraternity house and youth hostel complete with kitchens for use by the residents who were students at the Kaiser Wilhelms Universität.

“Famous” might be an exaggeration, but Salim’s goulash was raved about by the friends he shared it with. We were off to the kitchen and watched him cook goulash the way his mother made it in Afghanistan. A few days later over a couple of beers in my room, Salim shared the recipe with me,

He was studying medicine and was planning to return to Afghanistan as a doctor. His father, he told me, was a rug merchant and his mother a housewife. Salim was an intelligent and generous person who I am sure made a fine doctor. He was a stickler for getting things right. That may be why he let me watch him make it again just in case my German was not as good as his.

Over the years I have made this dish at least fifty times. Occasionally, someone complains that it is too spicy for them. Let them eat Jello.*


3 to 4 lbs. beef
3 to 4 cups onions
2 T olive oil
2 T butter
1/2 to 1 tsp. cayenne
1 T paprika
Dry red wine (Cabernet sauvignon and merlot are both good choices.)
Tomato juice
1 tsp. salt
1 T flour


Cut the meat into one inch cubes, trimming and discarding excess fat. Peel and chop the onions medium. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large heavy pot over high heat and brown the meat in batches. Remove the meat from the pan with a slotted spoon.

You should have three to four tablespoons of oil left in the pot. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and cook them until they are softened. Return the meat to the pot and add equal amounts of a good dry red wine and tomato juice to cover the meat. Stir in the salt, paprika and cayenne and bring the mixture to a boil.

Turn the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer the meat for at least two hours. Salim simmered his for a longer time, since inexpensive beef available in Germany then was even tougher than what we are used to.

Stir occasionally and add equal amounts of wine and juice if necessary. About fifteen minutes before serving, dissolve a tablespoon of flour in a quarter cup of cold water and stir it into the goulash. stir well and continue cooking. This will thicken the gravy slightly.

Serve the goulash over noodles with the remainder of the wine (and an extra bottle?) and thick slices of a crusty homemade bread on the side. Jerri’s egg noodles make this truly a gourmet dinner. You’ll find the recipe here.

NOTES: This recipe makes enough for eight or ten hungry people, but it holds well in the refrigerator and is even better warmed up a couple of days later. You can also freeze it and bring it out for a great dinner without having to do any work.

*If, instead of Jello, you want want a delicious goulash that is not spicy, make Pörkelt. It’s flavored with paprika, marjoram, lemon and caraway. No cayenne.

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