Lecsó is probably – after gulyàs – the second most famous Hungarian dish. It is a kind of light stew prepared with peppers, tomatoes and the famous Hungarian paprika (of course you might see some old-fashioned versions swimming in fat, but it’s up to the cook to decide whether one tablespoon oil is enough or not and my version is always light). Best made with ripe, aromatic long Hungarian or Turkish peppers, lecsó is the late summer dish par excellence. I make the basic version quite often, based on Zsuzsa’s excellent recipe (see my post here) not only because I love it, but also because its serving possibilities are endless. It is, first of all, a side-dish, perfect served with any meat, fish or seafood, but throw sliced sausage, a chicken breast or eggs, and you obtain an easy one-dish meal that can be enjoyed simply with some bread, with rice or potatoes.
Last week my neighbour kindly offered me some vegetables and among them this beauty:
I hadn’t had pattypan squash for at least two years, so my neighbour’s present was a pleasant surprise and an occasion to experiment with it. If you have never seen or tasted pattypan squash, it’s a distant cousin of courgette with a funny flying saucer shape (as you can see above). This representative of summer squashes family is (according to Wikipedia) also called sunburst squash, white/yellow squash, cibleme or scallop squash (patiszon in Hungarian, pâtisson in French). Mini pattypan squashes (size of a small walnut) are sold in many European countries pickled in vinegar, but the more frequently found, big variety is simply cooked or baked.
Thanks to its shape, a big patty pan squash can be stuffed and baked, but the easiest way to prepare it is to peel it, cut into cubes and fry or simmer in a stew or sauce. I had a lot of ripe tomatoes, some fresh chilli peppers, so I decided to prepare a pattty pan squash lecsó with chillies instead of the usual sweet peppers. Served with fried chorizo or Hungarian hot sausage, this lecsó was probably the best patty pan squash dish I have ever had.
If you don’t have a pattypan squash, probably the basic – sweet pepper and tomato – version of lecso will be easier to shop for:
Lecso (Hungarian Pepper Stew)
TIPS: If you don’t like like chilli, you can prepare this lecso of course with sweet fresh peppers instead.
If you have access to caraway seeds, make sure you add them. No one will guess their presence, but they improve and deepen the taste. Do not mix up caraway seeds with cumin seeds. They look similar, but the taste is slightly different and cumin will give a different result I cannot guarantee.
Preparation: around 1 hour
Ingredients (serves three as a side dish or two as a main dish if you add some meat or sausage into the stew):
1 pattypan squash weighing about 500 – 600 g
4-5 big tomatoes
1 medium onion
5-6 big medium hot chilli peppers (I have used the Turkish medium hot variety called aci sivri) or mild peppers (the best are long, light yellow peppers)
sweet paprika (Hungarian is the best but if don’t have access to it, take any bright red good quality sweet pepper powder; Korean is a great option too)
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 tablespoon oil
(sausage or two chicken breasts if you want to serve it as a main dish)
Peel the pattypan and cut the flesh into big, bite-sized cubes. You can remove the part with seeds or keep it if the seeds are not too big (I have kept it).
Peel the garlic and chop it finely.
(If you want to peel the tomatoes, put them in boiling water for a minute. Take them out with a slotted spoon and put into cold water. Peel them.) Chop the tomatoes roughly.
Core the peppers, remove the stalks and cut them into slices.
Chop the onion and fry it in fat until soft and translucent.
Remove from the heat, add the remaining ingredients.
Simmer covered until the peppers are soft, checking if you need to add more water.
Add the pattypan cubes after about 20 minutes.
Keep the stew simmering.
If you want to serve it with sausages, I strongly advise frying or grilling them before. It gives much more taste to the lecsó. Add the sausage slices, cook for 10 more minutes and serve.
If you want to serve it with eggs, beat the eggs in a bowl and simply pour them into the pan with lecsó, stir a bit and serve when the eggs are set.