“Getting stationed in Ljubljana is like ‘overseas light'” (words from a wise Embassy spouse I’ve had the privilege of getting to know).
And it’s true. It’s very easy to live in Ljubljana. Just check out this post I wrote about life here: 10 Things You’ll Learn on a Trip to Ljubljana that are different in the US. A lot of people speak English, people are friendly, and there is a lot to do. I didn’t think I would ever experience the “culture shock” that I’ve been warned about so many times over the past year.
But first let me talk about food. Beef Goulash is the first (and only) Slovenian dish I’ve made. I made it soon after we moved to Ljubljana, when a friend I met here (Iva who owns Ljubljananjam–a food walk business) directed me to a Slovenian recipe site called Kulinarika. I found something I could make with my one piece of cookware–a Cast-Iron Skillet: beef goulash.
By the time I made this dish, we had been in the city for about 2 weeks. In terms of being in a new unfamiliar place, I was doing fine. I was able to get what I needed at the farmer’s market, trying to get by using Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, learning numbers in Slovenian, and a lot of pointing and smiling.
That all changed when I went to the regular grocery store. I walked up to the meat counter and I didn’t recognize a single cut of meat (besides the Osso Bucco) or know how to ask for what I needed. As a line started to form behind me, and as the butcher was getting frustrated, I realized I didn’t know what I wanted. People behind me started to cross their arms and tap their feet (ok–not really). Then it all kind of hit me at once. Being in a new place and not knowing how to communicate and all the frustrations of the move and finding an apartment and being really shocked at how the meat counter was different than I’m used to–meat dripping all over the counter, no paper between the meat and the scale, and no gloves…I suddenly got overwhelmed. I ended up with some sort of roast that I later cut up and made this goulash with.
The hubby is a lifesaver in times like this. I don’t know what I’d do without him. At dinner that night, he praised the meal like nothing else, and totally gobbled it up.
This Slovenian Beef Goulash is simple and easy and I love it for four reasons:
1. It makes a happy hubby in the house.
2. It’s delicious in a comfort food kind of way and it falls apart in your mouth!
3. It is a fix-it-and-forget-it type of dish (I love these!).
4. It makes great leftovers, and freezes well.
If you scroll down and look at the ingredients, you’ll notice there’s apple in there…what??? Apple in beef goulash? Yep, and it makes it gooood!
You can serve this however you like. I think it’s often served with polenta or pasta. Rice would work well too. The few times I’ve made it I used pasta.
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 3 medium onions, chopped
- 2 lbs (1 kilo) beef stew meat (bočnik or vratovina in Slovenia)
- 1 cup beef stock
- bay leaf
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1 tbs tomato paste
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 apple, grated or chopped very finely
- Add oil to a large cast iron pan or dutch oven. Bring to medium/high heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent.
- If needed, cut up meat into 1 inch cubes. Add to the pan and cook until browned on the outside.
- Add beef stock, bay leaf, garlic, and thyme. Cover and simmer on low heat.
- Meanwhile, add tomato paste to a separate oiled hot skillet. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring with a spatula, until it starts to darken. Be careful that it doesn't burn.
- Add the tomato paste and white wine to the meat and stir.
- Add grated apple and salt/pepper to taste.
- Let simmer on low heat for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. If it starts to look a little dry, add some water.
- Serve with pasta/polenta/rice or however you choose.