Category Archives: HUNGARIAN CUISINE

MARHAPÖRKÖLT (HUNGARIAN BEEF STEW)

Hungarian food entrances me because I have always loved the key ingredients in this delightful cuisine – sour cream, paprika, potatoes, pasta, onions, caraway seeds, poppy seeds, cabbage (including sauerkraut), and a wide array of sausages. I mean truly, what’s not to like?

So when I recently decided to prepare a beef stew, I decided to forgo my usual recipes in favor of something new. And almost any time I think “something new”, my thoughts automatically drift towards the Carpathian Basin.

I found plenty of recipes during my internet search. But I quickly realized, like American beef stew, there are as many recipes for this Hungarian standard, as there are cooks. And not just Hungarian cooks. I found recipes from cooks from almost every ethnicity, as well as recipes from magazines as disparate as Saveur and Women’s Day.

So I glommed together what I thought would work, and got out my largest LeCreuset Dutch oven. Following what I thought to be the key ingredients in most of the highest rated recipes, I came up with this mix. I had a few trepidations about using a whole green pepper, but in the final analysis, it’s the green pepper that sets the stage so beautifully for the paprika and caraway to work their magic. These three ingredients were obviously meant to be together. They set the flavor base for this incredible dish. The funny thing is, unless you have truly amazing taste buds, (of which I am not blessed), it is difficult to ascertain where the green pepper flavor leaves off and the paprika and caraway take the forefront. And really, isn’t that the essence of good cooking? Achieving a blend where no one ingredient hogs the stage. (Kind of like a good band. Every player in sync with every other player to form a blend rather than a cacophony of individual sounds.)   

So please give this recipe a try. It is the essence of comfort food, even before you place it on the table. The smell alone is worth the effort. All you have to do is read the first two ingredients to know of what I speak. 

  • 4 slices thick cut lean bacon, diced
  • 1 lg. onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped (don’t even think of leaving the green pepper out)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. cubed lean beef (I use round steak because it’s inexpensive and very lean)
  • 3 T. sweet (mild) Hungarian paprika (yes, 3 tablespoons), or more to taste
  • scant ½ tsp. caraway seeds, coarsely crushed (don’t leave the caraway seeds out either!)
  • 1 lg. bay leaf
  • 8 oz. can diced tomatoes (preferably Italian)
  • about 2 c. beef broth
  • ½ lb. thick egg noodles
  • 1 T. chopped fresh parsley, garnish
  • sour cream, garnish, opt.

In a large covered Dutch oven or soup pan, fry the bacon until it is crisp. Remove from pan and set aside. Add the onion and sauté for about 8 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic, green pepper, salt, and pepper. Continue to sauté for another 5 minutes or until the garlic is fragrant and the bell pepper is tender-crisp.

Add the beef to the pan. Cook for 5-6 more minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the meat is brown. Add the cooked bacon, paprika, caraway seeds, bay leaf, and diced tomatoes to the pan. Pour enough beef broth into the pan to almost cover the meat. Stir and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to a simmer and cover the pan. Let the mixture simmer slowly for about 90-120 minutes, stirring occasionally, and adding more broth as needed to keep the stew from getting dry. (If too much liquid, remove the lid the last 30 minutes or so of cooking time, thus allowing the excess liquid to evaporate.)

The stew is done when the meat is fork tender and the sauce is thick. Adjust seasoning.

Just before serving, cook the noodles to al dente and drain.

To serve, cover the bottom of a soup bowl with noodles, and ladle on the stew. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and offer sour cream at the table.

Can substitute mashed potatoes or steamed rice for the noodles.

Pairs very well with Hawaiian Won Bok and Carrot Slaw. (on blog)

 

    

HUNGARIAN GROUND BEEF SOUP

As you can see, I am still on my ground beef kick. And why you might ask. Well – lean ground beef is versatile, relatively inexpensive, relatively low in fat, a good protein source, and tasty. (Really, what more can you ask from a simple, easy to obtain food product?) And when combined with other healthy ingredients, ground beef is the base for many quick and easy dishes including this wonderful soup. (I call ground beef “wonder meat” because it is the perfect meat for all the working mothers and fathers (can’t forget all those guys out there who are the family cooks) who rush home from work and are greeted with those 3 little words all parents hear upon entering their home. And no, it’s not “I love you”. It’s “what’s for dinner”?) So this is yet another recipe to help you prepare an easy, healthy dish that is on the table before your kidlets have time to declare that they are about to expire from hunger. As if?? (And yes, this recipe is great for seniors too. Healthy, easy to prepare, and basically a one dish meal.)

So yesterday when I was deciding what to do with the pound of ground beef I had taken out of the freezer, I decided to search for a goulash style soup that featured ground beef. (I love Hungarian food, so I often start a search with the word “Hungarian”.)

This soup recipe is out of the Food and Wine magazine. (I did use noodles instead of potatoes, added some sour cream, and used less salt than originally called for, but the rest is straight off the Food and Wine magazine web site. Great recipe site BTW!)

So do yourself a favor and make this soup next time you want to use ground beef in a less than traditional way. And I know, spaghetti, tacos, chili, and hamburgers are delicious too. But often, a new dish is as welcome to your family as fixing a new recipe is for the cook. And always remember, it’s all about you – the cook. If you’re happy in the kitchen, your family are going to reap the benefits. And since the kitchen is the heart of any home, who knows, you might even hear “I love you” more often. Stranger things have happened in the name of good eating.

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 lg. onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 T. flour
  • 2 T. Hungarian paprika (sweet, not smoked or hot)
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne
  • 1 tsp. dried marjoram
  • 1¼ tsp. caraway seeds (don’t even think about leaving them out!)
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper (small amount)
  • 1 T. tomato paste
  • 3 c. beef broth  
  • 3 c. water
  • 1½ – 2 c. egg noodles
  • ½ c. sour cream, plus more for the table

In a heavy covered soup pan, lightly brown the ground beef over medium high heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften, about 10 minutes. Stir in the flour. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add the paprika, cayenne, marjoram, caraway seeds, salt, pepper, tomato paste, broth, and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, stir, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the noodles and cook just until al dente. Stir in the sour cream, adjust seasoning, and serve with additional sour cream if desired.

 

PALÓCLEVES (HUNGARIAN LAMB SOUP WITH SOUR CREAM)

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Those who know us personally know that we love to travel. And what I’m sure our friends realize almost intrinsically about our whole “travel thing” is that not only do we love to see the world for the cultural heritage and the natural and manmade sites that appeal to us and every other tourist, we love to travel to experience the food! (Well of course we do.)

So we tend to choose countries based on what we know about the cuisine. I visited England, Scotland, and Wales in the late seventies, and have never returned. (Lesson learned.) I first visited Italy in the mid eighties, and have since been back three times. We also have loved the food in other European countries we have visited. But one of the countries we have yet to visit is Hungary. (We have traveled in the neighboring countries of Croatia and Slovenia and eaten like kings, so now it’s simply time to go to the land of sour cream, paprika, and caraway seeds.) And of course, while we are touring the country we absolutely must stay a few days in Budapest. We have several friends who have spent time there, and they consider Budapest to be one of the loveliest cities on earth.

So, until we can visit this amazing country in person, I am going to have to be content to research the many culinary offerings Hungary has to offer via the internet. (Actually, I have been making Chicken Paprika for years. And truly, it is one of Mr. Cs favorite dishes. But until I prepared this soup last evening (thank you Saveur Magazine), Chicken Paprika was the only Hungarian dish I had ever prepared, that I’m aware of that is.)

So hang on folks, in the next few weeks we are going to visit one of the oldest countries in Europe (founded 897) together.

So here’s to a fun new adventure learning about the birthplace of the Rubik’s Cube (inventor Erno Rubik), Béla Bartók and Franz Liszt. And to a country with a 99% literacy rate. And to the home of Europe’s largest natural grassland. (Complete with real life cowboys (csikos) I might add.) Wee ha!

  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil or more as needed
  • 16-20 oz. lamb shoulder, trimmed of all fat and sinew and cut into ½-inch cubes
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 bay leaves
  • ¼ c. Hungarian sweet paprika
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 6 c. water
  • 1 small russet potato, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 8 oz. yellow snap or green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1½ c. sour cream, plus more for garnish
  • ¼ c. flour
  • 4 T. roughly chopped dill, divided

Heat the oil in a 6-qt. covered saucepan over medium-high heat. Dry lamb off with paper towels and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Add lamb to the pan, and cook until browned all over, about 8 minutes. Add onions, garlic, and bay leaves to the pot. (If necessary, add a little more oil to the pot.) Cook until the onions are soft, about 15 minutes. Add paprika, cayenne, and water; bring to a boil, cover pot, reduce heat and cook until lamb is just tender, 40-60 minutes. Add the potato and beans, and cook until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the cup and a half sour cream and flour together until smooth. When the meat and veggies are tender, whisk the sour cream mixture into the soup, and stir until smooth and slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Just before serving, add 2 tablespoons of the dill to the soup and adjust seasonings. To serve, ladle soup into bowls, dollop with additional sour cream, and garnish with remaining dill.

HUNGARIAN CHICKEN PAPRIKASH (CHICKEN PAPRIKA)

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This is one of Mr. Cs favorite dishes. The original recipe came to me from my dear friend Dodie. Her in-laws had immigrated to America from Hungary. And apparently Dodie’s mother-in-law was an amazing cook. I of course had to mess with the recipe to get it down to a manageable size, since the original recipe started off with 12-14 meaty whole pieces of chicken. All the original ingredients are still in my version, but several steps have been eliminated to allow for a more manageable preparation time. But my dear husband, whom I regard as a “chicken paprika connoisseur” is adamant that none of the flavor demonstrated in the original recipe has been sacrificed in the reconstruction.

So ladies and gentlemen, I give you a very easy and delicious recipe for the Hungarian classis – Chicken Paprikash. Hopefully you will enjoy it as much as we do.

And about the 1 hour of letting the finished dish sit before re-heating and serving it. Well the only thing I can say is that I have always adhered to this step offered in the original recipe and have no idea what the results would taste like if I served the dish before it had that hour to sit and mellow. I suppose it would be alright if you chose to give it a go before the resting period. But for me, I’m not going to mess with the original recipe any more than I already have. I’m not so sophisticated as to believe that spirit’s might not actually exist. So the last thing I want to experience, if only in a dream, is the spirit of the fine woman who’s recipe I have altered to come after me with a live chicken in one hand and a meat cleaver in the other. I’m sure even spirit’s have their “that’s it” point.  So needless to say, I do not wish to garner any more disfavor by eliminating even one more tiny little insignificant detail from the original recipe. Enjoy!

  • 3 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
  • ¼ small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite sized cubes
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 c. chicken broth
  • 1/3 c. milk or more
  • 2 T. flour
  • 1 T. Hungarian paprika, or more to taste
  • ¾ c. sour cream, or more to taste

In a heavy sauce pan, fry the bacon until very crisp. Remove from pan and place in a small bowl. Add the onion to the pan and sauté for a couple of minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add the chicken pieces and sprinkle very lightly with salt and a goodly amount of fresh pepper. Stir fry until the chicken is just done. Remove to the same bowl with the cooked bacon.

Meanwhile whisk together the chicken broth, milk, flour, and paprika. After removing the chicken and onion, pour the liquid mixture into the pan, bring to a boil, reduce heat and let gently burble for about 5 minutes, stirring the whole time. Whisk in the sour cream. (If the sauce seems too thick, add a little additional milk.) When thoroughly heated, but not boiling, add the reserved bacon, chicken, and onion mixture. Adjust seasoning. Continue to heat until just before ingredients reach a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 1 hour. Reheat and serve over rice or wide egg noodles.

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Perfect with fresh green beans, a chunk of hearty bread, and a chilled Fume Blanc.

Note: This recipe doubles, triples, etc. beautifully.