In the north of Poland where I come from, and which was under German influence for many years and boasts to be the homeland of Nicolaus Copernicus and Immanuel Kant, this type of dish was called Eintopf (one pot dish)--a very heavy soup or rather a soupy dish, and was often served on Mondays.
In the English speaking countries people call it a stew, which rightly or wrongly I associate with something unattractive from the culinary standpoint. Another well-known variety of the same idea is the Hungarian goulash--which is a heavy soup or rather a whole very nutritious meal made in one pot, which because if its consistency often poses a dilemma as to whether to eat it with a spoon or a fork.
But, under these different names, this is really all about convenience and comfort. It is something easy to make, when you mix all the ingredients and after cooking them together, you have a very satisfying meal, which you can serve with wine or beer. It is a great idea to prepare this almost no hassle dish for a big gathering, especially on a cold evening. It is so easy that it can be an every day dinner or a life saving dinner idea when unexpected guests arrive.
There are many one pot dishes in Polish culinary repertoire, as during the economically difficult times, we often had to cook up something out of nothing. By adding potatoes and different vegetables, a small portion of meat was expanded into a meal that could feed the entire family.
As the season for local vegetables still goes on, I had an idea to make a Hungarian goulash, which thanks to the colorful vegetables and dried paprika content, is one of the most attractive looking Eintopfs. Although, as the name indicates, it is a Hungarian dish, it has been so deeply-rooted in Polish cuisine, probably since the times when Hungarian kings ruled in Poland and Polish kings ruled in Hungary, that we really consider it being Hungarian only by name.
I know several dishes based on that idea, including one that is probably utterly Polish invention, as it is based on Polish sausage, although it is made with a lot of Hungarian paprika as well. I would say Hungarian paprika is a key ingredient in every goulash and its color and taste make a huge difference in this particular dish. Therefore, it is worth purchasing the original Hungarian paprika, which is now available in the international food section of many stores in America.
To make it a one pot dish I added a potato to the goulash, as it is done in Hungary. Good tomatoes are also important, although Austrians make goulash without tomatoes and in the Polish version we often make it without potatoes, but we add dried porcini for example and serve it with different kinds of noodles or buckwheat.
Next time, if you have no idea what to cook for dinner, maybe you get some paprika and try goulash.
2 lb beef of good quality, cut into cubes.
2 onions cut into half slices,
4 garlic cloves, crushed,
2 green peppers (sweet Cuban peppers are a good substitute for the original Hungarian pepper, which have very characteristic strong flavor), cut into thick half slices,
2 large tomatoes, cut into medium-sized quarters,
2 lb baby potatoes or regular potatoes cut into cubes,
2 bay leaves,
1 tbsp Hungarian paprika,
1 tbsp caraway seeds,
3 tbsp lard or oil,
1 tsp salt,
1 tsp pepper.
1. In a large pot with a thick bottom, preferably cast iron (like Le Creuset) heat the lard or oil.
2. Add onion and fry until gold.
3. Take a pot off the heat to add paprika (it is important not to burn paprika, as it will become bitter) and meat and combine them until the meat becomes all covered with pepper. Let it simmer on low heat until the meat is slightly brown.
4. Add bay leaves, salt, pepper, caraway seeds, and garlic.
5. Cover with water and let it cook for about 30-40 minutes.
6. Add pepper, tomatoes, and potatoes. Add extra water if needed to cover everything, and let it cook for another 30 minutes or until the meat and vegetables are soft.
I like to garnish it with chopped parsley (a very Polish tradition), and in the Hungarian tradition you may add a dollop of sour cream on top of the portion, just before serving. Goulash can be served with white bread, which can be used to scoop up all the delicious sauce at the end.