Winning recipe: Goulash-pretzel pies

23:44, Aug 14 2014
Goulash-pretzel pies
OLD-WORLD FLAVOURS: Goulash-pretzel pies

So this week's Wellington On a Plate bake club saw the team take on savoury meat and vegetable pies ... with Jule's beyond-delicious goulash pies taking the, erm, cake ... here's the recipe so you can make them yourselves this weekend:

Admittedly these pies are not the quickly thrown together kind (they're of more the eight hours in a slow cooker variety), but you will be the star at a potluck if you're packing these Goulash-Pretzel parcels. 

This recipe is not a traditional European dish but the result of a combination of influences in my life. The first my upbringing in Bavaria where pretzels - which we call brezels; pretzel is an Americanised version - are your standard snack. The second, my love for meat pies, which I have developed since moving to New Zealand.

In German beer gardens and at the Oktoberfest brezels as big as a ukulele are eaten with obatzda, a hearty cheese: and there really is nothing quite as delicious as the salty, glossy crust combined with the soft dough.

When I first came to Wellington I couldn't find my favourite snack. I missed pretzels so much that I learned how to bake them myself.

To give them their brown crust, traditional Bavarian pretzels are dipped in a lye solution before they are baked. Lye, also known as sodium hydroxide, is also used to make soap, industrial oven cleaners and clogged drain openers. Yes, it does not sound particularly appealing, but as Noelle Carter writes in the LA Times, "when the pretzel is dipped in the solution, the lye immediately begins to react with the surface of the dough, yellowing it. As it bakes, the colour intensifies and turns a deep, glossy brown, and the pretzel taking on a crisp, chewy texture. The alkali is neutralised in the process, making the pretzel safe to eat."


Luckily there is a much easier way to make acceptable pretzels. Instead of using lye I dip mine for about 20 seconds in boiling water with some baking soda added.  They won't have the glossiness of those dipped in lye but they're still absolutely delicious.

The goulash - a thick, hearty beef stew with lots of paprika - is best made in a slow cooker and it would be a waste of time to just make a small amount for the pie filling. The original recipe doesn't contain beer but I believe a pint of pilsner or even a nice IPA gives it a special note. As we were celebrating Wellington on a Plate I used a Capital brew, Parrotdog BitterBitch.

This recipe makes enough of the stew to fill eight pies and also have some leftover to make a pasta feeding a family of four.

Goulash-Pretzel Pie

For the goulash:
750 gram chuck steak (or brisket)
5 medium-sized brown onions
2 garlic cloves
2 tblsp tomato puree
3 tblsp paprika powder
1 tsp smoked chipotle flakes
1 red capsicum
1 tsp caraway seeds
2 bay leaves
1 lemon (juice)
1 bottle of beer (pilsner or IPA)
Salt & pepper to taste
For the pretzel dough:
2.5 cups of flour
300 ml milk
2 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt
150 gram aged cheddar
2-3 tbls baking soda
½ cup of rocksalt

1. Chop the onions into small cubes and fry in a big pan until golden. Cut the meat into bite-sized chunks and add to the onions and brown. Depending on how big your pan is, it may take quite a while.

2. Chop the garlic as small as possible and add to pan.

3. Chop the capsicum into small pieces and add to the pan

4. Now, sprinkle 2 tbls paprika, the chipotle flakes, the caraway seeds over the meat and onions and add 1tsp salt and tsp pepper.

5. Pour ⅔ off the bottle of beer (about 280ml) into the pan and stir in the tomato paste and add the bay leaves.

6. Transfer mixture to the slow cooker and simmer for 8 hours on low. If you don't have a slow cooker simmer on the stove for at least 2.5 hours.

7. Add water if it gets too thick. Just before you're done add the rest of the beer, the lemon juice and one more tsp paprika. Add salt and pepper to taste.

8. The stew tastes best when reheated the next day. Serve with pasta or dumplings and keep about a quarter for the pies (including plenty of chunks of meat).

9. Now for the pie dough - dissolve the yeast in 5 tbls lukewarm water. Add 1 tbls of flour and a pinch of sugar and let it sit for 10 minutes. It should start bubbling.

10. Take a mixing bowl and add the rest of the flour, the milk (heat in the microwave for 20 seconds) and a pinch of salt and knead into a smooth dough. You can use a breadmaker or a kitchen machine with dough hook attachments to do this is you have them. Let rest for at least 30 minutes in a warm place.

11. Roll out dough and cut 16 discs with an upside down mug.

12. Place 8 of the discs on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Heap about two to three tbsp of the meat in the middle and top with a slice of cheese.

13. Take one of the remaining eight discs and stretch it with your hands so that it is about a quarter bigger than the bottom disc. Then cover the meat with it.

14. Take a fork and press on the edges together. Repeat for the remaining pies.

15. Heat the oven to 220degC (fan).

16. Bring 1-2 litres of water to the boil in a medium sized saucepan and add the baking soda

17. Lift up one of the pies with a spatula and place in the boiling water for 20-30 seconds. Remove, drain a bit and sit back on the baking tray. Sprinkle with rock salt.

18. Put in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

- These pies go beautifully with beer at a party. But also make a great lunch quickly warmed in a sandwich press.