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.

Please let me know if you like this recipe. Thanks