I think spring finally said hello. After weeks of snow and ice and below-freezing temperatures, it finally got to 40 degrees the past two days, and this week will be in the 50s and 60s. Yeah, I foresee some productivity problems this week.
|This was really good. It's better if it's spicy.|
I actually started cooking Hungarian food last week. I found a recipe for Lecso (pronounced “LEH-choh”) that sounded perfect, and I had most of the ingredients. This easy stew is perfect for weeknights and doesn’t use a lot of ingredients. I started out sautéing onion and sweet peppers. I think you can add in hotter peppers, but I wanted to make sure my family would eat it, so I went for the sweeter ones instead. Then I added in canned diced tomatoes, sugar, salt, and Hungarian sweet paprika, letting it simmer until it was thick. There are several varieties of this stew, and I added in some smoked sausage to mine. Many times, people often serve this with fried eggs on top. I served mine on top of couscous instead of rice, although I’m not even sure if they do that. I’m hoping because of the Ottoman influences on their culture, couscous is authentic at least somewhere in Hungary. I liked it, although it was way better when I drizzled some sour cream on top and dusted it with ground cayenne pepper.
|This is the best thing that happened all day. Really.|
Today, I’m making two breads, only because I couldn’t narrow it down. The first bread I’m making today is Hungarian Cheese Batter Bread. I started this by mixing my yeast in with the water and sugar and letting it proof. Then I combined some scalded milk and cream and once it had sit some to cool off, I mixed this in with my yeast mixture. I added in about a cup and a half of flour to this mix and stirred until it was smooth. Covering this, I let it rest for 45 minutes. The recipe calls for a 13”x9” pan, but I don’t have one (I’m not sure why I haven’t just went out and bought myself one by now?), so I used a regular loaf pan. It seemed to do the job just fine. I stirred in the rest of the flour, salt, paprika, butter, and pepper into my dough and mixed it until it was smooth. Then I poured in my cheese and oats, stirred it all together and put it in my loaf pan. After brushing the top with melted butter and sprinkling some of the oats on top, I let it rest for another hour. At the end of this time, I put it in the oven for 30 minutes until it was golden on top. Although part of it stuck to the side of the loaf pan, subsequently tearing it a little when I pulled it out, it was an amazing bread. It was full of flavor, the crumb was very loose, and the crust was just crispy enough to give it a nice texture. I thought it went really well with the goulash.
|These are great for dipping. Look how beautiful they look on my stackable cooling racks. I love everything in this picture.|
The other bread I made today was one that I felt compelled to make. After reviewing recipes, I felt that I couldn’t cook food from Hungary without making kifli. Most of the recipes I saw were a sweet variety, but I found a recipe for what was called bakery crescents, or pék kifli. I mixed my flour, sugar, and yeast together, adding in lukewarm milk, melted butter, sour cream, and salt and kneaded it until the dough comes together. Then I formed it into a ball, covered it, and let it rest for about an hour or so. I pulled out some parchment paper and laid it on two baking sheets. I finally took out my dough and divided it into two. I took each half, rolled it out and cut out eight squares so that there are 16 squares in total. Taking each square and turning it so it looks like a diamond, I rolled it up from the bottom point and curved it like a crescent and placed it on the parchment paper. Once I did all 16 squares like this, I brushed the tops with melted butter and let them rise another 30-45 minutes. Just before I put them into the oven, I gave them an egg wash (mixing an egg yolk with a splash of water and brushing the tops). I baked these about 16-18 minutes until they were golden on top. I think my dough was a bit on the tough side. Although these had a great taste, they were a little tough when rolled up. If you use these to dip in a stew or something, then it’s absolutely great because it’s less likely to fall apart in your stew. My son and I thought they were great.
|Goulash with extra spaetzle noodles? Coming right up!|
And finally, the main event. The reason we’re all here: goulash. There are about as many recipes and variations of goulash as there are Hungarians. This savory stew starts with sautéing onions in a large pot for about 5-8 minutes until they become translucent. Then I added in my stew beef, salt, and pepper and cooked uncovered until the meat has been browned. Of course, the spices are what makes this dish: I added in the Hungarian sweet paprika, marjoram, caraway seeds, and garlic and let it simmer for about two minutes. The carrots and parsnips (my first experience with parsnips!) come next, along with about four to five cups of water. Once it gets to a boil, I reduced it and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. After this time, I added in some miniature red potatoes and let it cook for nearly 20 minutes. Then I added a can of diced tomatoes, a package of Bavarian spaetzle (in lieu of a small pasta called csiptke; Bavarian spaetzle is shorter than Farmer’s spaetzle), and some julienned sweet peppers (the julienned part is totally my decision). There were far more noodles than I intended. The bag was made of that cheap plastic and split when I opened it, and while I was pouring it in, all the noodles poured in at once. No noodle left behind, I guess. But since I love spaetzle, it wasn’t really a problem for me at least. I did have to add another cup or two of water to the stew. Once everything simmered for another 5-10 minutes, it was ready to eat. This was a really good meal. And it’s the type of dish that can be reheated easily. I really thought the caraway seeds brought out a lot of flavor to the meat. And we certainly have plenty of bread to eat and dip.
|Meals like this make me love doing this blog. My kids will thank me one day.|
I really liked everything I cooked/baked for Hungary. Each recipe was a little different and very much a “comfort food” type of dish. And I didn’t even get a chance to make the Esterhazy torte that I copied the recipe for. (Google an image of this. It’s amazing.) I’m sure that if I were to spend any extended time in Budapest, I’d probably gain five pounds a day. I think if I were to actually visit Budapest, I would just spend my days walking from one restaurant to another restaurant on the other side of the city just so I can burn all the calories in time to eat again. I learned a lot about this country and a lot of gaps were filled in. I have some new favorite bands, some new favorite recipes, and some new cities and landmarks to add on my bucket list. And that brings us to the end of the H countries.
Up next: Iceland