Category Archives: Hungarian

Chilli Lovers’ Preserving Reminder

Yuzu Koshou 柚子こしょう

Yuzu Koshou 柚子こしょう

In many countries imported fresh chilli is available all year round, but the most delicious aromatic local ripe chilli – the best for preserves – is sold only for a limited time. In my part of Europe the beginning of August is the best moment to start thinking about preserving this fresh aromatic chilli, find the most interesting farmer market stalls, check the stock of empty jars, lids and, most of all, make a list of the fiery treats that will fill one’s pantry or fridge this year.

I have chosen here my favourite fresh chilli pickles and condiments, successfully tested every year (some short-term preserves are made even dozens of times a year). All of them are easy to prepare and guaranteed as addictive. Some can become long-term preserves, some keep for a limited time in the fridge. I hope my fellow chilli lovers will find at least one of them worth trying and those who cannot stand the heat might substitute chilli with sweet peppers. Write to me if you have any questions or problems.

Raimu Koshou (Chilli and Lime Zest Paste)

Raimu Koshou (Chilli and Lime Zest Paste)

Yuzu Koshou 柚子こしょう

Yuzu Koshou 柚子こしょう

Vinegar-Pickled Chillies

Vinegar-Pickled Chillies

Peperoncini sott'olio (Fresh Chillies with garlic and Oil)

Peperoncini sott’olio (Fresh Chillies with garlic and Oil)

Salt Brine Pickled CHilli

Salt Brine Pickled CHilli

Chilli Jelly

Chilli Jelly

Hunan Salt-Pickled Chillies/Erös Pista

Hunan Salt-Pickled Chillies/Erös Pista

Habanero and Oil Paste

Habanero and Oil Paste

Pineapple and Chilli Jelly

Pineapple and Chilli Jelly

Mango and Chilli Sauce

Mango and Chilli Sauce

Hungarian Pattypan Squash Stew (Patiszonos Lecsó)

patlecsopLecsó 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:

patissonp

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)

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)

salt

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.

Hunan Salt-Pickled Chopped Chilli Peppers, or Accidental Erős Pista

fermchppMy busiest pickling and preserving period hasn’t arrived yet, but these effortless salt pickles can be prepared practically at any time of the year. I found this recipe in The Revolutionary Chinese Cookery Book by Fuchsia Dunlop, which covers the cuisine of Hunan province (I have already mentioned this book while presenting Cucumber Fried with Perilla). At my first reading I quickly realised that salt-pickled chilli peppers are one of the staple condiments, crucial to obtain authentic regional flavours. They can apparently be bought in Asian grocery shops, but when I saw how easy the recipe was, I opened the fridge, took some fresh chilli peppers and simply made it. The method is ridiculously simple, though  they are ready only after two weeks. The amazing flavour and inebriating aroma obtained with home-made fermentation are definitely worth this relatively short waiting period.

All you need here are two ingredients: fresh chilli peppers and salt. You chop the chillies, combine them with salt and… wait. It’s as simple as that. The chillies ferment for about two weeks and then keep fresh in the fridge for long months (I suspect them of keeping fresh even for a year in the fridge, but I have to test this assumption first).

After my introduction you might think it’s a typically Chinese preserve… I did too, so imagine my surprise when, after two weeks of fermentation, I opened the jar and the content smelled… like a better version of Erős Pista! If this name (approximate pron. eroosh pishta) doesn’t ring a bell, it’s a very popular Hungarian salt-pickled chilli paste, which translates into a very funny name: “Strong Stevie”. If it wasn’t for the preserving agents, which are added to this commercial product, and the higher salt content of Erős Pista, the smell and taste would be exactly the same. I have already noticed a long time ago that salt-pickling is one of the most universal preserving methods, nonetheless this similarity was surprising. The only difference is that the Hungarian condiment is mixed to a rough paste while here the chillies are only chopped. In short, even if you don’t cook Asian, but are a fiery food enthusiast, try making these easy pickles and if you want to obtain Erős Pista, just mix the pickled chillies.

I haven’t cooked any Chinese recipe calling for these pickles yet, but I have already half-emptied the jar and soon will be making another batch. I put it on rice, in sandwiches, I add it to noodles, stir-fries, soups, cold sauces… Next time I prepare a Hungarian dish, I will certainly put my salt-pickled chilies on the table. They are an excellent replacement for both salt and chilli powder or chilli sauce in many dishes from all around the world. Remember to add less salt or soy sauce when using them.

I have adapted the recipe to a smaller amount of chillies and added more salt for the top layer (this way chillies will have less chances to spoil).

TIPS: After a certain time a kind of hard salt crust will form at the surface of the chillies. Grate it every time you take some chillies, but put it back on top afterwards.

If you feel that chillies are too salty for your dish, simply rinse them and dry with paper towels before use.

Preparation: minimum two weeks

Ingredients:

250 g/about 1/2 lb fresh red chilli peppers

1 tablespoon salt + at least four tablespoons to cover the chillies

Cut off the stems and chop the chillies roughly.

In a bowl combine the chilli peppers with one tablespoon salt.

Put the chillies into a glass jar, pack them tightly and cover with a layer of salt, pushing with a spoon so that they have no access to air.

Close the jar tightly and leave for at least two weeks at room temperature.

At this point they are ready to eat, but should henceforth be refrigerated.

They will keep in the fridge for several months.

Székely Gulyàs with Gochujang, or Koreanised Hungarian Pork and Sauerkraut Stew

gulyasgochujangpj

Hungarians and Koreans have at least one thing in common: a huge passion for chili pepper. In spite of such an important link I don’t think I have ever heard of Hungarian-Korean fusions dishes. I don’t know how and why I had a crazy idea to incorporate gochujang (Korean chili paste) into the Hungarian Székely Gulyàs, but I have greatly enjoyed this amusing experiment and thought I would share my impressions with you.

Most of you have probably heard about the famous Hungarian Gulyàs. Székely Gulyàs (pronounced “see-cay goo-yash”) looks and tastes different, mainly because it includes sauerkraut (fermented cabbage). I discovered it last year thanks to Zsuzsa ( from Zsuzsa is in the kitchen). I wrote about it last year (here) and have prepared it many times without feeling any need of alterations. The origins of the name are not clear. Some say it comes from an ethnic group called “Székely”, who still lives in the present Romania, others – like Kàroly Gundel, a famous Hungarian cook – say it was named after a writer Jozsef Székely, whom Gundel calls the “godfather” of this stew. Whatever the origins, Székely Gulyàs is worth discovering. It is quick, easy, can be made in advance and even though it’s hearty, it has few calories and almost no fat (if you use lean meat). In short, it’s a perfect one-pot meal for cold winter days and the same could be said about its Koreanised version.

Gochujang, one of the staples of the Korean cuisine, is a sticky hot paste based on chili and soy beans. It has different levels of hotness, but gets never as strong as, say Thai curry paste. Here gochujang, used instead of dried Hungarian paprika, mellowed the flavours and brought a different complexity to the final result. Combining gochujang with European saurekraut seemed weird at first, but on the other hand, gochujang is often added to warm dishes containing kimchi (Korean fermented cabbage), so finally the satisfying result of my experiment shouldn’t come as such a big surprise. As a final Korean touch,  I have added some toasted sesame seeds and sprinkled the dish with Korean chili pepper. I hope that my Hungarian friends will not be shocked by these bold alterations.

If you don’t feel like “Koreanising” this Hungarian dish, you might want to try the “basic” Székely Gulyàs:

szekely4p

TIPS:

Székely Gulyàs is traditionally served with sour cream, but I find it equally delicious with thick sour milk or Greek yogurt. It was surprisingly good with this Koreanised version.

Like many stews, this one gets at least twice as good when reheated the following day. Actually it improves every time it’s reheated.

Do not throw away the liquid drained from the sauerkraut. You can add it during the cooking process if you feel your dish is not tangy enough. Personally I love my sauerkraut dishes very tangy, so I don’t even drain the liquid most of the time.

Preparation: about 2 hours (but it’s definitely best reheated the following day)

Ingredients (serves 2):

300 g lean pork

1 small onion

1 big garlic clove

300-350 ml sauerkraut (raw, not cooked)

3 tablespoons gochujang (medium hot) or more, depending on your preferences

1-2 tablespoons oil

sour cream or milk

salt, pepper

2 teaspoons toasted white sesame seeds

Korean dried chili pepper (to sprinkle on top)

Drain the sauerkraut, but don’t throw away the liquid (see the TIP above).

Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces.

Chop the onion and the garlic.

Fry the onion until soft.

Add the meat and fry it until golden brown.

Take the pan from the heat, add the spices and the garlic, 125 ml (1/2 cup) water.

Lower the heat and simmer the meat covered for one hour.

Take off the lid, add the sauerkraut and some more hot water to cover the whole dish.

Add the gochujang.

Continue to simmer first uncovered, then, after 30 minutes, covered for about 1 hour in total.

Add sesame seeds about 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with a splash with sour cream and/or sprinkled with Korean chili pepper. You can let it cool down, refrigerate overnight and serve it reheated the following day. (You can also freeze it).

Hungarian Chicken with Paprika (Paprikás csirke)

paprikascsirkepj

Sweet peppers are still on the market, it’s getting cold, we crave warming, hearty dishes… It seems the best moment to enjoy paprikás csirke. The first time I tasted paprikás csirke (pronounced paprikash cheer-ke) was at my friend A.’s parents’ house in Hungary. It smelt deliciously, its deep beautiful red colour made it look like a Hungarian cookery magazine photo, and the taste was heavenly. It was served with small home-made dumplings called “galuska” (see the TIPS) and cream. Ever since then I have been repeating myself I had to try preparing it one day. I suspected Chicken with Paprika to be much more difficult and time-consuming. In reality it is ridiculously easy, requires few ingredients (I could practically make it every day given my fridge and cupboards’ content) and, last but not least, if you don’t put too much fat at the onion frying stage and if you remove the skin, the whole dish is not heavy neither greasy. In short, one more dish confirming that Hungarian cuisine is simple, delicious and not necessarily heavy or greasy.

Once more during my exploration of the Hungarian cuisine, I decided to try the recipe from Zsuzsa is in the kitchen blog. And once more I wasn’t disappointed. I have simplified the cooking process (my free-range chicken didn’t need any “improving” tricks), modified the quantities a bit and added 1 tablespoon hot paprika, since I wanted the dish to be a bit hot. Oh, and I would have forgotten – this dish is at least twice as good when warmed up the following day! Thank you so much, Zsuzsa, for teaching me one more excellent Hungarian dish that has become a regular – and very welcome – guest on our table.

TIPS: If like me this time you don’t have fresh tomatoes, you can use canned tomatoes or tomato purée (unseasoned).

The perfect sweet peppers to use here are long green or yellow sweet peppers.

The taste of caraway seeds is hardly perceptible, but it adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the dish. Do no skip it if you have it (if not, buy caraway seeds).

Galuska (or nokedli) are small, irregularly shaped dumplings grated through a special grater  and served often with this chicken dish. Luckily, small Swiss dumplings called spätzli are made in the same way, so finding here the right utensil for next time shouldn’t be complicated. In the meantime I served the chicken with good white bread. Visit Zsuzsa’s blog to see her nökedli/galuska recipe.

Last but not least, try the first, onion frying stage, with lard or (like I did) with duck fat. The taste will really be much better.

Preparation: 1 hour 30 min

Ingredients (serves 4):

2 skinned chicken legs and 2 breasts cut in two parts each or 4 breasts / 4 legs but the best results are obtained if you keep some chicken bones

6 medium tomatoes + 200 ml water (about 4/5 cup) or the same volume of natural tomato purée (passata)

5 – 6 green or yellow or any variety of sweet long peppers

2 tablespoons lard/duck fat or oil

3 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika

1 tablespoon hot Hungarian paprika

1 big onion

1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds

2 garlic cloves

water

sour cream or Greek yogurt (I use “sour milk”, which is roughly skimmed sour cream)

(parsley)

Put the tomatoes for a minute in boiling water and transfer them afterwards to a cold water bowl. Peel them and chop them.

Remove the peppers’ seeds and stalks. Cut them into bite sized pieces.

Chop the onion. Sauté it on a low heat until transparent.

Add the chicken and fry it, stirring, for a couple of minutes.

Remove from the heat. Add the paprika, the salt, the pepper, the caraway, the tomatoes, the peppers and 200 ml water (or 200 ml tomato purée and no water).

Cook it covered over low heat until the chicken is soft inside (it’ll take around one hour to make the chicken very soft, as I prefer it, the flesh falling from the bones).

Check in the meantime if some more water should be added.

Serve with sour cream and galuska (nokedli, see above).

My chicken was still excellent served only with good white bread.