Did Don Johnson Eat Beef Goulash?

If he didn’t, he ought to have. Back in the 1980s, when he and Philip Michael Thomas were speeding along the Miami coast, in an offshore racing boat, I was a callow youth, trying my best to impress the girls at house parties around Dun Laoghaire in County Dublin. No self-respecting house party would be thrown without large pots of goulash and chicken a la king. I remember the chicken gunk as being particularly clawing and disgusting. The goulash was often watery and pretty pathetic too. Both were usually served with undercooked rice and, if at a fancy do, garlic bread. But, none of this mattered as we pushed the sleeves of our sky blue Armani style jackets up our skinny arms, hoisted our high waist baggies and got down to the thumping music of Jan Hammer. 

They were simpler times. In Miami Vice, Crockett and Tubbs lived a luxury lifestyle with fast cars and even faster women. In today’s politically correct world, it wouldn’t be acceptable to call a TV star Tubbs for fear of offending some large minority. Not that PMT (Can I call him that?) was fat. Far from it. But, I digress. In short, back then goulash was often made and mostly made badly. I need to redress the balance. So, it’s on with a canary yellow tee and into the kitchen to cook Beef Goulash. The chicken a la king will have to wait for another day.

Beef Goulash (1 of 10)

Enough for a small house party. Even if there is no gloopy chicken.

Ingredients for Beef Goulash

  • 1.5 kilos of good diced beef.
  • 5 onions
  • 3 red peppers
  • 1 or 2 green peppers
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • 3 teaspoons of hot paprika
  • 1 or 2 teaspoons of smoked sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons of smoked sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato purée
  • 800 ml of tinned tomatoes (2 tins)
  • 600 ml of great quality beef stock
  • Sour cream to serve
  • Chives to decorate
  • 2 tablespoons of oil for frying off the beef

1980s people must have been pretty poor cooks because this is a cracker of a dish and it is not difficult to make by any standard. Firstly, heat a casserole dish and add the oil. Brown the beef in batches.

Beef Goulash (2 of 10)

Brown the beef over a high heat.

Add it all back into the casserole. Slice the onions into eights and oik them into the casserole too.

Beef Goulash (3 of 10)

Any dish that uses large cut onions is a blessing. I cry less than with the fine slicing.

Add all the remaining ingredients apart from the peppers.

Beef Goulash (5 of 10)

Like Crockett and Tubbs, I produce evidence to support my case. Nearly everything goes in.

Give it all a good stir and put it, covered with a tight-fitting lid, into a 170ºC oven for an hour and a half. Chop the peppers like in the picture and add them to the casserole.

Beef Goulash (7 of 10)

A goulash is not a goulash without the peppers.

Stir the peppers into the stew and return it to the oven for a further hour.

Beef Goulash (8 of 10)

It looks like too much peppers. It isn’t.

Prepare some rice. In a break with 1980s tradition, I like to cook my rice properly. Serve the goulash with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chives for a bit of colour. Despite being as out of fashion as Jane Fonda’s leg warmers, this really is a fantastic dish. It’s very easy to prepare and tastes pretty amazing. I enjoyed mine with a cold beer. You should too.

Beef Goulash (9 of 10)

I think I know why it went out of fashion….

The only downside of eating this goulash is the risk of splashing some of that tomato and paprika laden sauce on your white baggies or pink unstructured jacket. Perhaps that’s why it hasn’t been made since 1988?

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Latest comments
  • A smile and a lovely slow clap from a [admittedly rather short-time] wife of the best Hungarians goulash maker in Australia! Oh, he managed for just about hundreds every week 🙂 ! If he was not making a Madras curry!! Love that you have the peppers and onions at a rate some do not dare . . . would add a wee bit more paprika possibly adding one of the many mediums rather than the smoked . . . what do I know, I did the sides and charmed the visitors 🙂 ! Oh, and cooked the rice: actually I do get that right . . . .

  • I have nothing but bad memories of Goulash. Between this and Rick Stein’s version from his book last year I may be converted. I still detest green peppers though. Can I ask what cut of beef you use?
    Great overhead ingredients shot!

  • I have no idea why ghoulash would be out of fashion because it’s fantastic. As always, beautiful photos too!

  • That looks delicious – I’m interested in what sparked off the popularity of Goulash in Dublin during the 80s…

      • Why not, but I don’t think there was a sudden goulash craze here, which was why I asked. I’m not sure I’d expect to eat goulash in Spain either mind you. I associate goulash with Hungary, which was still behind the Iron Curtain back then. I have always wondered how paprika got to Hungary, having been introduced to Europe by the Spanish.

  • My young twenty-something associate was just telling me how he loves to watch Miami Vice. How strange is that? Nice goulash!

  • All the ladies in my life, wife and two daughters, we’re brought up on my “superior” goulash. I usually served mine with a side of buttery noodles. This has inspired me to relieve those goulash years now the girls have flown the nest. Love your posts as always

  • Bloody predictive text 😀

  • I was lucky, I had a mam who knew how to make the stuff and wasn’t afraid of the paprika. Which is probably why I have every single ingredient I need to make this with the single exception of smoked salt. But then, what’s liquid smoke for if not to remedy the lack of every other smoked ingredient you can think of? I agree, shin beef is the business for this one, producing a rich, unctuous gravy.

      • We can get the regular Maldon, but I haven’t seen the smoked, at least, not around here. I shall have to keep a look out on our forthcoming gastro-tour in February.

          • Exploring the Far North’s cocoa and coffee plantations, exotic fruit farms, ice creameries and dairies, a chocolate factory using home grown cacao, visiting Ingham, which is Queensland’s ‘Italian city’ to have a good rummage in all their delicatessen and bakeries and seafood… I could go on. There’s a lot of good food up here!

          • Oh, mate, if you think those are good, do a bit of reading up on what’s on offer in Tasmania… I’d live there if the sun shone regularly, but it’s too cold! Australia does have a wonderful food culture.

  • As a member of the Hungarian ancestry club, goulash is a favorite of mine! I always have good Hungarian paprika (hot, sweet, and smoked) available. Beef shins or tail aren’t always available, so I usually use shoulder/chuck. I serve mine over noodles or occasionally a good mash (which my dad enjoyed, weirdo that he was). One good thing about the mash is its ability to sop up all the juices, although that takes away the joy of licking the plate. 😉

    Chicken ala King was more of a 1970s thing for me. I’d be interested in a good version of it, if one exists, that is. If there’s a man who can make that dream come true, it’s you, Conor! 🙂

  • ‘Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end’… seriously who cared about the food when there were members of the opposite sex to engage with??
    Over the intervening years I have been served some abominations which I was told were ‘Goulash’, so it is a real treat to have a recipe for the genuine article. I return to China (after 2 months in Scotland) later this week, and have decided your Goulash recipe is the first thing I will make when back in Beijing – also, having read Marty’s comments above – may serve it with mash.

  • *big smile* If you like me belong or belonged to the Hungarian ‘ancestry club’ methinks the only accompaniment a good goulash, such as this one here, needs are nokede or csipetke ? Not potatoes or rice!! Oh, and that wretched wilted cucumber salad naturally: I’m afraid not my favourite!!

  • My apologies” this was meant to land under ‘Marty’s’ comment . . . .

  • Don’t tell the Hungarians, but you could use Spanish smoked paprika to add the smoky note.

  • Another classic, Conor, although I only remember goulash as soup (probably a Dutch invention?). Think I’d reverse the quantities of sweet and hot paprika though.

  • I had the biggest crush on Don Johnson…. This goulash looks good and I’m sure he would eat it too! 😉

  • From where I sit now I think the convenience of processed packaged ingredients got in the way of good cooking in the 70s. I agree goulash is a terrific dish when well made. I wonder if it’s possible to make an equally delicious chicken a la king? A challenge for you Conor

  • *huge smile, Stefan* – never thought I’d be able to say ‘no’ to you and twice!! Goulash soup is probably THE most beloved Hungarian dish used in most families multiple times a week, but it does not ‘present’ as excitingly perhaps ? This drier version of Conor’s would be liked by every dinky-di Hungarian!! BUT, smoked paprika is NOT often used even in this day . . . and we used to have 7-8 different 1-kilo cardboard boxes next to the stove at all times 🙂 !!! Yes, there are that many subtle variations . . . . actually the mid-range paprikas would be mixed and used most often . . .

  • To Stefan naturally and I did put this as the one before into the correct ‘reply’ !?

  • Thank you Conor, we had been talking about a good goulash for a couple of days and up you pop with this recipe.

    I made this last night with beef cheeks. I love how they soften and add a great depth of flavour. Added a bit of Spanish vermouth to deglaze the pan and only had Bearnaise smoked paprika so used that alongside the hot stuff and some sweet paprika. Don’t tell the Hungarian’s, but I also threw in a bit of soy and fish sauce, to bring out the beefiness and a splash of balsamic to boost the tomatoes. Cooked longer and lower to make sure the cheeks were melt in the mouth.
    The result, a full flavoured, spicy goulash. Not authentic, though it tasted bloody good.

    Cheers and here’s to the chick a la king.

  • Ah yes the 80’s house parties. I remember helping my mum spread cream cheese on ham and make pinwheels. Then stuff celery with cream cheese and olives. The height of sophistication. We’ve come a long way! You make goulash look good.

  • I do like myself a good beef goulasch. Brings me back to my Vienna days. Even if it’s a Hungarian dish, it was very popular there, too. You may want to reconsider Chicken a la King. Yes it can certainly be awful. But when it’s well made, it’s also excellent eating. If you use a rich chicken stock and don’t go overboard on the flour, and using the wonderful butter and cream you have in Ireland, you may find you enjoy it!

  • Praise indeed. It got the thumbs up at home too.

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