Tradition has it that this Pandur goulash originated in Jászberény, a town some 100 km. east of Budapest. The story looks suspiciously like that of the Székely goulash. A group of late guests were regaled with a Duke Humphrey dinner, refused to put up with it and urged the proprietor of the establishment to do better. After some fiddling in the kitchen, the man came back with a mishmash of leftovers: some veal and a few potatoes, cooked to a thick soup with bone marrow, jollied up with cream, green peas and a handful of mushrooms. Some bread to it and Bob’s your uncle. The story doesn’t tell if that same evening the name, Pandur goulash, was invented.
The Pandurs were loose associations of soldiers from Hungary, Croatia and Serbia, in the service of the Austrian army to defend the border with the Ottoman Empire. They were tough guys, hardened during long years of merciless struggle against the Turks, and were notorious for the cruel treatment they administered to the enemy and the own peasantry alike. In Hungary, the word “Pandur” is not only used to refer to the brutal militiamen. It is also a nickname for the members of each of the two professional groups that were combined in these bruisers: policemen and bandits, of the latter especially the kind that makes the roads unsafe. This goulash is also called betyárgulyás. The betyárok were what the English call highwaymen: muggers who had made it their specialty to rob defenseless travelers. The word is of Ottoman origin, where it means “bachelor”.
None of these facts however, interesting as they may be, shed any light on the pressing question why this stew of veal, mushrooms and root vegetables was named “bandit goulash”. A possible explanation might lie in one of the ingredients, viz. the bone marrow with which this goulash is enriched. In bygone days bone marrow was often used, especially in soups and stews. The stuff dissolves in it and gives the dish a rich, fatty, sweetish taste which was highly appreciated by our ancestors. Medical science has, with threats about horrible diseases, virtually purged our kitchens of the stuff, but as real Pandurs we don’t give a hoot about doctors and dietists. Veal goulash with bone marrow. Yummy.
1 kg. veal shoulder
1 large onion
1 tbsp. mild paprika
1 tsp. hot paprika
1 bay leaf
150 gr. mushrooms
150 gr. peas (fresh or frozen)
500 gr. pork bone marrow
Put the bones with the marrow inside a couple of days in lightly salted water. That will extract the blood and impurities from the marrow. Bring the water to a boil and let it boil for a few minutes. Now the marrow is soft enough to push it out of the bones with your fingers. Chop finely and set aside.
Chop the onion and cook gently in a little oil until translucent. Meanwhile cut the veal into cubes. Turn the heat up and brown the meat quickly on all sides. Remove the pan from the fire, stir in the paprika and quench immediately with water, enough to cover the meat. Reduce the heat, add the bay leaf and let it simmer until the meat starts to tenderize.
Meanwhile, clean and slice the mushrooms and root vegetables. Add them to the goulash. Let it cook until the meat is tender and the vegetables are almost done. Now add peas, mustard, dill and tarragon plus the bone marrow and let it simmer quietly on for five minutes.
Finish it off with a generous blob of cream. Season to taste with tarragon vinegar and serve with bread, rice or galuska.