When I was a very young bride I moved far away across the broad expanse of Canada to live on the wild Western frontier . . . ok, so it was really a vast urban centre . . . but it might as well have been the wild Western frontier, because I was young and away from my mom and dad for pretty much the first time in my life. I had nobody to call on for advice or help or company.
That is until I met Lil. Lil was the mother of one of my ex husband's best mates. She lived in a small town in Alberta called Olds. She was the salt of the earth. She was rather robust and had no teeth . . . but her heart was filled with the milk of charity and she gathered me into her home and her family.
I loved to go and spend the weekend at their place. They had an old British Bulldog that used to pull our daughter around in her walker by holding gently on to her hand with his mouth . . . and Mr McNevin, Lil's husband, was very much a grandfatherly figure to my son. He had flown helicopters for heli-skiing and was just loaded with interesting and colourful stories! They had a houseful of girls, each one more colourful than the last . . . it was there that I learned how to play Canasta and it was there that I ate pistachio nuts for the very first time. To a young mum and wife, away from her parents for the first time, their home was a wonderful haven.
Lil was a fabulous cook, a very unpretentious cook. Her food was lumberjack food . . . as robust and loveable as she was, filling, uncomplicated and quite, quite delicious!
This was one of the things she used to cook. She gave me her recipe and it has been a firm favourite in my home for many, many years. My kids absolutely loved this when they were growing up. Lil and Mrs McNevin have been gone for many years now, but the memories of them live on in this delicious and unpretentious supper . . . it's goulash . . . Mrs. McNevin's Goulash . . . from the pages of my Big Blue Binder.
*Mrs McNevin’s Goulash*
Serves 4 - 6
I have an old blue binder that holds recipes that I have collected from friends and family and magazines throughout the many years. This one is a real treasure and I never make it but what I don’t think of Mrs. McNevin. The mother of a friend of ours, she was so kind to me, a young bride living far away from the bosom of my own family. She took me under her wing and treated me just like one of her own. This deliciously spicy stewed meat goes very well with rice or noodles.
2 pounds of stewing beef, trimmed of any fat and cut into cubes
2 TBS cooking oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
½ cup tomato catsup
2 TBS Worcestershire Sauce
1 TBS soft light brown sugar, packed
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
½ tsp dry mustard powder
¼ cup flour
1 cup water
Pre-heat the oven to 160*C/325*F/ gas mark 3. Season the meat lightly and coat it in the flour.
Heat the cooking oil in a large skillet and add the meat. Brown it very well on all sides. Add the onion and garlic, Cook for a few minutes longer until the vegetables are softened and quite fragrant.
Add the catsup, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, paprika and dry mustard. Stir it all together well. Stir in the water.
Tip it all into a casserole with a lid and then put it into the oven to cook for 2 hours or so, until the meat is very tender and the sauce is thickened. Delicious!