Czech Goulash

For the first recipe of 2017 my other half picked the country, the Czech Republic, and even found a recipe I could use on the National Geographic website. Back when I was doing bits of research in the Czech Republic I ate quite a lot of goulash, and when I took some students there in 2012 I had an amazing goulash in a little bar not far from where we were staying in Prague. Not only did it taste amazing, it was served in bread, the bread acted as the bowl. I managed not to poke a hole in it with my cutlery so the contents didn’t spread all over the place. This was by far the best meal I had in the Czech Republic and if I do go back I’ll have to see if the place is still there.

dscf9260  The recipe we found was called ‘simple Czech goulash’ and looking at the ingredients list it was easy to see why. I wanted to see if there were any other common variations for the recipe, and as is typical with a lot of stew type dishes you’ll find a whole swathe of different varieties, some which add garlic, others which add peppers or a tomato, plus a range of other ingredients. For some people goulash might be more of a hungarian dish than a czech one, but since it’s a common dish there too I’m going to use it for these purposes to tick off the Czech Republic on my ‘cook dishes from around the world’ challenge. The recipe included in this blog post represents a merge of a few different recipes. I also had a spare carrot and red pepper, and this seemed like a good opportunity to use them up. This recipe serves around 2-4 people, and we served it with some bread, although you could also opt to make some dumplings too.


  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 3-4 onions
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 500g beef
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 red pepper
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp marjoram.


  1. Heat the oil in a casserole dish and cook the onions for about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the beef and garlic, and cook to brown the meat.
  3. Add the paprika and cook for a minute
  4. Add the water, followed by the spices and vegetables.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Bring to the boil and then cover and reduce the heat to simmer for about 2 hours.
  7. Add the marjoram and cook for another 10 minutes.
  8. Check the seasoning, and then serve with bread or dumplings.

And that’s it. My version of goulash, with very little effort! If you have the time you could also do this in the slow cooker.

Hungary – Goulash

There are so many different recipes for Hungarian goulash (or Gulyás) I really found it difficult knowing which one to go with. In the end I pulled inspiration from a few (Delia Online, The Hungary DishThe Guardian, and Daring Gourmet). This probably means it is not an authentic recipe, but still takes inspiration from Hungarian influences.

Hungarian goulash recipeIngredients (Serves 4)

  • 600g braising steak, cut into cubes
  • 2 tbsp hungarian paprika (or other smoked sweet paprika)
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 onions
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 red peppers
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 100ml red wine
  • Salt and pepper

Hungary Goulash recipeMethod

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 150ºC.
  2. Heat the oil in a casserole dish then brown the cubes of beef, a few at a time, and set aside.
  3. Turn the heat down to medium and add the chopped onions and celery to the dish, and cook for 5 minutes, then add the garlic.
  4. Return the meat to the pan.
  5. Add flour, paprika and mix.
  6. Add the bay leaves and tomatoes. Add 200ml water and wine (or enough just to cover the mixture). Season well with salt and  black pepper.
  7. Once it reaches a simmering point, place the lid on the casserole dish and transfer to the oven to cook for 1.5 hours.
  8. Then add the chopped peppers and carrots, replace the lid and cook for another 45 minutes.

Hungarian goulash recipe

I served this with boiled rice, but it would also go well just with some bread.

Hungary recipe flag


Mexico: Pork Pibil

Pork pibil

In 2013 I discovered the restaurant chain Wahaca on a day wandering around London, and this for me was when I started to really explore different types of Mexican food – before then fajitas were more or less about it. I remember the first visit, as we made an effort to order a selection of things which we hadn’t had before – including a cactus taco, pork pibil among other things (photographs below).

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I’ve acquired a couple of the Thomasina Miers cookery books and over the last year or so and I’ve tried a few recipes (tinga de pollo being a favourite). To represent Mexico in my year of cooking different dishes from around the world I’ve chosen to have a go at pork pibil. This seems to be one of Wahaca’s best selling dishes, and you can find the recipe here. Part of the fun of cooking these different dishes is finding out about new ingredients – and for this one, something I’ve never cooked with before is achiote paste.

Annatto seedsAchiote paste is a mixture of crushed achiote seeds (annatto) with  salt, garlic, coriander, cumin, peppercorns, and some orange juice (there are lots of variations of this). It can be bought in paste form too. It’s used as a rub to add colour, and as a seasoning with meats like pork and chicken.



Achiote Annatto Seeds

“Bixa orellana fruit open” by Leonardo Ré-Jorge

You can find it online from various places, including a Mexican store – Mexgrocer. We were planning to travel to Bristol this weekend so I was going to drop by Otomi to pick up a few supplies, including the achiote paste, but we decided to save that for another weekend, and instead went for a wander a bit closer to home in Birmingham. In the end I made my own achiote paste after finding the seeds on a stall in Birmingham bullring market.

The recipe I used for this involved: 2 tbsp annatto  seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp black peppercorns, 5 allspice berries, 1 tsp salt, 1 pinch nutmeg, 2 garlic cloves, 125ml orange juice. To make the paste I ground the spices and then mixed them in a small food processor with the garlic and juice. The paste was then used to make the marinade for the pork, as explained in the recipe here.

Red onion slicesAfter marinading overnight this morning the pork was cooked in the oven at a low temperature as per the recipe. I also decided to make the pink pickled onion slices to garnish the pork, and the mexican green rice to serve with it. To make these you just need to finely slice an onion, pour boiling water over them, and remove from the water after ten seconds. Then in a bowl place the onions, a chopped chilli (habanero if you have it), juice of 1 lime and 1 orange, season with salt and black pepper, mix together and leave it in the fridge for a couple of hours. This makes a large amount which is more than enough for a six people.

Green rice pasteFor the mexican green rice you first need to rinse around 200g rice (I used basmati) and then cook it for around 10 minutes in 400ml of vegetable stock. Meanwhile, I blended an onion, a handful of fresh coriander leaves, and a handful of parsley leaves, a garlic clove and a green chilli (again habanero if you have it) in a small food processor to get a sort of green paste. When the rice was about ready I heated some oil in an ovenproof pan and then added the green paste to cook for around 5 minutes. Then I added the rice and any remaining liquid and mixed together. Then along with the other casserole dish I placed the pan in the oven for just under half an hour. This was enough to serve around 4 people.

The final result: rice, pork, pink pickled onions and some coriander leaves to garnish. The results went down well at lunch time.

Pork pibil recipe

For my culinary journey of 2016, Mexico now has it’s first flag.

Mexico map flag

Japanese Ramen

Japan flagSo far this blog has mainly included recipes for bread, mainly as I have recently been trying out lots of different recipes. This blog will include a much wider range of recipes as time goes on, and today’s recipes is definitely one of my favourites. Earlier this year we travelled to Japan and discovered a whole new world of culinary delights, but one dish in particular got my attention – ramen. We first tried some ramen at a little place in the Shinjuku Electric Street (Shinjuku Denki-gai) area, it was so good we went back a second time later in the holiday. Ramen in Japan

There are various components to ramen (tare, ramen soup and the toppings) and the stock in particular does take some time to make, but it is worth it. The recipe used here is an adapted version from Japanese Soul Cooking – their version has a lot more components and so to begin with I am keeping it at simple as possible.

Ingredients for the Ramen Soup

  • 900g chicken bones/carcass
  • 450g chicken
  • 15g ginger (peel on, crushed)
  • 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
  • 3 litres of water
  • 1 spring onion
  • 1 small carrot

Ingredients for the tare – this is the base of the ramen dish

  • 225ml soy sauce (preferably light soy sauce)
  • 60ml sake
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 15g ginger (peel on, crushed)
  • 1 spring onion
  • 1 garlic clove (crushed)

Other ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspsoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • breadcrumbs
  • vegetable oil
  • noodles for four people
  • sugarsnap peas or fine green beans
  • 1 spring onion


For this recipes you need plenty of time to make the broth, a little time to make the tare, chicken and noodles – and then it all gets put together very quickly.

For the noodle soup:

1) Add all the ingredients to a large cooking pot, bring to the boil and then simmer for 2 hours. Skim off any of the fat that accumulates at the top.

2) Sieve the soup (or strain through a muslin lined colander if you have one).

For the fried chicken:

1) Finely chop the garlic, and mix with the salt and juice of the lemon. Marinade the chicken in the mixture for about an hour (longer if you have the time).

2) On a  plate spread the breadcrumbs. On another plate whisk the two eggs.

3) Heat a shallow layer of vegetable oil in a frying pan. Slice the chicken breasts in half so each makes two flat fillets. For each of these fillets place them in the eggs (turn to cover both sides) and then dip them in the breadcrumbs (again make sure to turn to cover both sides), and then add to the frying pan. Depending on how thick the chicken is it should take around 8-10 minutes for the chicken breast to cook (ensure they are turned over after a couple of minutes.

4) Once the chicken has turned golden remove from the frying pan and leave to rest (preferably on some kitchen towel to absorb some of the excess oil).

For the tare:

1) Add all the ingredients to a pan and heat until boiling and then remove from the heat.

For the noodles:

1) This will differ depending on the type of noodles so follow packet instructions – usually around 3-4 minutes in boiling water.

Assembling the Ramen

This might seem like there are lots of stages, but none of them are complicated so don’t be put off.

1) Reheat the ramen soup for a few minutes (if you have made it earlier and it has now cooled). Add the sugar snap peas or green beans for the last couple of minutes. Ensure the tare is still warm, reheat if necessary.

2) This recipe should make enough for four people, so get four bowls ready. In each bowl add, 60 ml of the tare (if you use cup measures this will be about 1/4 cup), then 475ml of the ramen soup with the peas/beans.

3) Add the noodles to each bowl.

4) Slice the breaded chicken into smaller pieces (so it can be eaten with chopsticks) and place on top of the ramen.

5) Sprinkle some chopped spring onions on top.

And then all that is left to do is enjoy!

Japanese Ramen