Monday 23 November 2020

This recipe which I am sharing with you today for Goulash, is an old, old, old recipe. It is something which I have been making for my family for many, many years. When my children were growing up I used to call it Monkey in the Middle.

There was a method to my madness. I knew they would probably balk at something called Goulash, but give them a meal with a cute name, and it changes everything. I would put some rice on the plate, fill it with goulash, surround it with corn and it became Monkey in the Middle, infinitely more desireable than . . .  Goulash!

This was always my middle son Doug's favourite meal.  He has always loved it and through the years he always was telling me that no matter what, he could never get it to taste as good as the one I made for him.

He came over to visit me from PEI yesterday and we made it together.  We discovered that all these years he has been making Swiss Steak, not Monkey in the Middle. No wonder it never tasted the same! DUH!

So yesterday, for the first time in many, many years . . .  we cooked together.  Actually Doug did all the cooking. I just told him how to do it. 

Its actually his Birthday today so this is a very fitting recipe to share today in honor of my now 39 year old son! We almost lost him last year to a heart attack.  I am so grateful that we didn't and that he is still around for me to hug.  And many hugs were given yesterday. It had been 8 years since we had seen each other.


He did all the cutting and cooking, and with a not so very good knife. My mom's knives are so old and falling apart and somewhat dangerous to use. I need to get some more. 

I pretty much left my knives behind.  That's okay. New page now. Moving forward.


 Brown food.  Brown food never photographs well. I think you pretty much need to be a professional photographer to be able to take good photos of brown food.  

Don't let these photos turn you off of this very delicious recipe. This recipe is fabulously tasty and really simple to make. It uses simple ingredients as well.


 This is a recipe with a real history  Back 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 . . . Calgary. 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  the northern part of Alberta called Olds. She was the salt of the earth. 
She was rather robust and had no teeth. Her heart was filled with the milk of charity and she gathered me into her home and her family. She became my mom away from mom.


I loved to go and spend the weekend at their place. They had an old British Bulldog that used to pull our daughter Eileen 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 Anthony.
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 is one of her recipes.  I have been cooking it for and pleasing my family with this recipe for over 40 years now.


 It may look a little bit like brown slop.  But I can promise you it is anything but brown slop.  

It is a delicious gravy, filled with flavour and with tender chunks of beef.  I don't eat red meat very often actually. This is one of the few ways I enjoy it.  Mrs McNevin's Goulash.


It is simple and unpretentious. Just like her. It is the kind of food that screams Home Sweet Home.

That is the best kind of food you know, Home Sweet Home food.  The kind of food that builds taste memories.


Family food and family recipes.  This is the kind of dish that family carries in their hearts down through the generations. The kind of dish that children long to come home to, because of that one secret ingredient.
Love.  Family recipes always contain that beautiful ingredient called Love.  Its not elusive.  Its real. And it automatically adds a special something to everything you cook.

It doesn't come in a jar or a package.  It isn't something you can touch, but boy oh boy, it sure makes things, even brown things . . .  taste spectacularly delicious.

If you are wanting to cook your family something hearty which is simple to make and oh so tasty, you really need to cook them this.  Fabulous with rice or mashed potatoes.  It also freezes very well in single portions for you to thaw out and reheat at a future date. I think you will love it as much as we do! It might even become a family taste memory for your family as well!

Mrs McNevin's Goulash

Mrs McNevin's Goulash

Yield: 4 - 6
Author: Marie Rayner
prep time: 30 Mincook time: 2 Hourtotal time: 2 H & 30 M
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


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160*C/325*F/ gas mark 3. Season the meat lightly and coat it in the flour.
  2. 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.
  3. Add the catsup, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, paprika and dry mustard. Stir it all together well. Stir in the water.
  4. 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!
Did you make this recipe?
Tag @marierayner5530 on instagram and hashtag it #EnglishKitchen

This is an older photograph of it from a much earlier post. Before I knew how to take better photographs.  Brown food is alway only ever going to be brown food I guess! 

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  1. I love this post - so full of love and beautiful memories.What a joy to be able to cook this together with your son - a perfect way to start this new journey you are taking.

    I'm very happy when my children contact me and ask about a favourite recipe from their childhood. I did compile quite a few in booklets for them as they were growing up - each one featuring some of their favourites. But every now and then they ask for something I'd not realised that they had remembered.

    I smiled at you creating a fun name for the dish in order to make it more interesting for them. I agree with you that brown food is hard to make to look appetising, but I also know that seemingly unattractive looking dishes can taste great. Often our sense of smell kicks in and invites us to try it. This does sound like a lovely hearty and warming dish for the autumn.

    1. It was a lovely day Marie! I am so grateful for it! All of my kids love to cook! That makes me happy! My grandchildren love to cook too! I am looking forward to cooking with them! Thanks! ❤️

  2. What kind of herb is sprinkled on it? It looks very yummy and thanks for sharing it!!
    Elizabeth xoxo

    1. Thanks Elizabeth! Normally I would use parsley, however didn’t have any, so it’s just dried summer savoury! Xo

  3. Great story behind the recipe. Really tasty dish.
    So good to hear you had time with your son, and on his birthday

  4. Awww...Happy Birthday to your son. I know there are different forms of goulash, and this is not the one we call goulash LOL. But it does sound good....and I do understand why your son confused it with swiss steak....at least my mum's version of swiss steak. So happy you created all these warm memories for your family. I remember the favorites that my mom made....which were many as she was a phenomenal cook. My son? Well, about all he has ever asked me for since he moved out is chili LOL. ~Robin~

    1. This is like a Hungarian Goulash Robin! Our children all have their favourites! I think taste memories are a wonderful thing! xoxo

  5. I am so happy for you ,I shed a tear ! This sounds delicious and I know your recipes always are SO good ! :)

  6. My mum and grandma used to make a wonderful beef stew, in the round stewpot with handles like little ears and a bobble topped lid. I now own the same pot and reckon it's about a hundred years old. Watching my grandma cut up beef and carrots to fill the pot is one of my earliest memories. Can putting a ready meal in the microwave produce the same food memories?
    We love goulash, I had forgotten how good it is, thanks for the reminder.

    1. I don’t think microwave cooking has the same feel, I agree Jean! There is something very precious about doing things the old fashioned way. Thanks for sharing your sweet memory with us! Xoxo


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