Perfect Goulash (Felicity Cloake)

(serves 4)
600g shin of beef (or chuck steak if unavailable)
3 tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp caraway seeds
2 tbsp lard
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 green pepper, cut into rounds
Juice of 1 lemon
150ml sour cream (optional)
Chives (optional)

Cut the beef into large chunks. Mix the paprika, flour, salt and caraway seeds together in a bowl then add the beef and toss to coat. Heat the oven to 140C/gas mark 1.

Melt the lard in a heavy-based casserole dish over a medium-high heat, and then brown the meat in batches, being very careful not to crowd the pan. Remove when golden and crusted, and set aside.

Scrape the bottom of the pan and add the onions and pepper, adding a little more fat if necessary. Cook until soft and starting to brown, then pick out the peppers and set aside. Stir the remaining flour and spice mixture into the onions and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring. Return the beef to the pan and add water just to cover. Scrape the bottom of the pan again, then put in the oven for 2.5 hours.

Stir the peppers and lemon juice into the goulash and cook for another half hour, or until the meat is very tender – you can remove the lid to let the sauce reduce if you like. Check the seasoning, then dollop the sour cream, if using, on top of the goulash and snip the chives over it all before serving with crushed boiled potatoes or egg noodles.

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