Named after Hungarian goulash, hamburger goulash is not like Hungarian goulash at all. Also called American goulash, it can be made with almost anything as long as it includes animal meat of some kind. Hamburger is nothing more than ground beef, unless you’re talking about a fast food burger or something.
When I make hamburger goulash, I usually leave out a bunch of ingredients. I use lean ground beef and macaroni noodles as the two basic ingredients, so “beef macaroni” is probably a better name for it. That’s what I called it whenever a relative asked me what I was cooking.
Betty Crocker, a completely fictitious persona invented by someone in the early part of the 20th century, put out a cookbook with a hamburger goulash recipe in it. I don’t remember what it was, and I don’t have one of those cookbooks. My mother or one of my sisters may have had one back in the 1960s. With four sisters, there was a lot of estrogen in that house.
My memory doesn’t serve me well, but the hamburger goulash my family made wasn’t made very well. It contained ground beef along with all the grease, sliced onions, noodles of some kind and tomato sauce, but that’s all I can remember. It was often served alone because food had to stretch as far as it could with up to nine children in the house.
Rice wasn’t a staple in our household until we moved to Hawaii in 1974. Even then, it wasn’t served with hamburger goulash. These days I eat rice with so many things, I don’t think I could list them all.
I was briefly reminded of hamburger goulash more than 20 years ago when my wife, Josie, put some leftovers together that resembled it. I didn’t think much about it at the time because we weren’t in short supply of food. There were only four mouths to feed (us and two kids).
I was a geographical bachelor of sorts for several years after moving to the Philippines. Josie kept going back to the United States for months at a time. I had to cook for myself and my younger son, Jon, quite a few times.
In the beginning, I relied on meals aided by “Hamburger Helper” or some generic version of the same. Over the course of time, I learned to live without it.
There were times when I would cook hamburger goulash with most of the ingredients you might expect: ground beef, tomato sauce or tomato paste, elbow macaroni, onions, garlic, salt and pepper and of course, water. At other times, I would leave out the onions and garlic and usually just because I didn’t have any on hand.
Unlike a lot of people I know, I didn’t cook the macaroni noodles separately and… I didn’t always use macaroni noodles. I also used bottled water instead of tap water. If I couldn’t drink the tap water, I wasn’t going to cook with it. As far as measuring the ingredients, I guessed more often than not.
I started with about a pound of cooked lean ground beef (or half a kilo), two cups of noodles, two cups of water and enough tomato sauce to cover the noodles. After everything was in the pan, I generally let it come to a boil and then lowered the heat to a simmer for about 10 minutes. I would then turn off the heat and cover it for another 15-30 minutes. I knew it was done when there wasn’t any liquid left in the pan.
This was enough hamburger goulash to last me (for dinner) for three or four days, without adding rice. If I added rice, it was more than a week. Of course, I didn’t eat it on consecutive days. That would have been boring.
I haven’t had it for more than eight years.