I returned from Spain last Wednesday and was welcomed by chilly weather. My first stop: Starbucks at the airport and "one Pumpkin Spice Latte, please" to prepare myself for the cold air on the other side of the window. Spain was fantastic. How could one not have a great time in bright sunshine amidst dear friends and good food? We cherished the abundance of fresh seafood (pulpo! king prawns! fish! paella!), ordered una botella de vino tinto de la casa almost every night, had tapas and probably the best cocktails in town (I really need to recreate that mint julep). We laughed; we laughed so much and hard that I got a hiccup because of it almost every day (there's a point when it turns from funny to annoying). We worked out on the beach, did yoga on Friday night (followed by a great sourdough pizza so that may just have ruined our karma), tried to learn how to whistle, witnessed the birth of a baby goat (the mama goat's yelling will probably haunt me till the end of my days), danced our way through the days, and sang on the plane. What a great week indeed.
But as I already mentioned, I'm back in the cold, dark north. I need something to warm me up from the inside, and I'm probably not the only one. Guys, may I present to you the most delicious, comforting soup ever made in my kitchen: Moose Goulash! As I was soaking up the sun in Spain last week, my mom bought a piece of moose meat for me to prepare once I returned home. Moose meat is available in fall, during the hunt season that runs from late September through the last day of December. The meat is excellent and doesn't have a strong "gamey" flavor which many people dislike. I remembered spotting a moose goulash from restaurant Tintå (based on the southwest coast, in the city of Turku) in the latest Finnish Glorian Ruoka & Viini magazine and decided to make a goulash inspired by that column.
I was slightly nervous of making and shooting this recipe for the blog because of 1) the lack of light during this season (the goulash needs to simmer for two hours and it's basically impossible to shoot after 3pm = I need to improve on my time management) and 2) my anxiety of shooting rustic food and soups/stews in particular. Despite my worries, I decided to at least try cause I was kind of fascinated by the idea of providing you a moose recipe.
And "ta-da!", here we are! I managed to both get the goulash ready in time (finished shooting at 2.30pm) AND did actually succeed in capturing the dish in all its beauty. I'm not saying that I don't see things to improve in these shots (oh I do!) but they're definitely good enough. This was the first time trying to photograph a dish like this but I guess this is where practice shows its magic; it doesn't really matter what kind of food you shoot, as long as you practice, practice, practice your food photography will improve altogether. I could continue with this talk about how much practice matters when it comes to photography but maybe I'll just leave that for another post. I'm sure you're already eager to see the recipe, right? (Make it, make it, make it! Don't have moose? Use beef!)
Hello moose! Hello juniper berries! Hello comfort!
This is the perfect soup for chilly days. If you're not able to find moose, use other game or beef instead. Choose a cut of meat that is suitable for stews. I used bottom round but other cuts such as brisket or chuck are great as well. Should you not be able to find juniper berries, leave them out. They're commonly used in game dishes throughout Scandinavia and I strongly recommend you to discover it not only as an ingredient to flavor gin but also as a spice. Although you can buy juniper berries in grocery stores, I prefer to forage them myself in early summer. Pick the dark blue berries (juniper berries get ripe on the third summer; the green ones are still unripe) and dry them before storing.
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
3 garlic gloves, minced
800 g (1.75 pounds) moose (I used bottom round but other cuts such as brisket or chuck are great as well), trimmed and cut into 2 cm / ¾" cubes
2 tbsp light muscovado sugar
½ tsp red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp finely chopped rosemary
2 tbsp thyme leaves
3 red bell peppers, cut into strips
1 large onion, cut into strips
600 g (1.3 lb) piece of celeriac, cut into strips
680 g (1.5 lb) passata
1 liter (4 cups) beef stock
1 tbsp whole black pepper
½ tbsp juniper berries
1 ½ tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
4 potatoes, peeled & cubed
crème fraîche & flat leaf parsley, to serve
In a large dutch oven or pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sweet paprika, garlic, and meat cubes and sear, tossing the cubes regularly. Lower the heat and add the sugar and red pepper flakes. Cook for around 5 minutes. Add the bay leaves and half of the rosemary and thyme. Cook for a couple of minutes more. Add the vegetables and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the passata, beef stock, as well as the remaining herbs and spices.
Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours, or until the meat is tender. Stir occasionally. Add more water during cooking if necessary.
Add potatoes and cook for further 10 minutes or until cooked.
Serve with crème fraîche and flat leaf parsley. Note: You're not supposed to eat the black pepper and juniper berries (well, you can eat them but the taste won't be that nice as everyone who has bitten on a peppercorn knows). Here in Scandinavia, typically each eater picks out the spices him or herself. However, if you want to be extra nice to your dinner guests, discard the spices before serving.
Needless to say, this soup keeps for days and only gets better and better and better.