Thursday, February 5, 2015

I Hope You're Hungary!

I hope y’all are hungry tonight because I have a warming winter stew to share with you straight from Hungary. Formally called the Republic of Hungary until 2012 when the name was changed to just plain Hungary, this Central European nation first invented the rubik's cube and the ballpoint pen. It used to be part of the powerful Austro-Hungarian Empire that rose to be the second largest nation in Europe.  You can go to Hungary to ride down the beautiful Danube river, relax in one of the many hot spring spas, or see the beautiful architecture of the capital city of Budapest.

Hungarian cuisine has quite a bit of popularity here in the US due mainly to all the Hungarian immigrants who came over after the Hungarian Revolution in the 1800s and then in the late 1900s. Goulash and chicken paprika are now American comfort foods passed down from Hungarian grandparents. I’m not really a fan of chicken paprika, and the tomatoey goulash dish that frequents American tables is scary to someone with a tomato allergy. For these reasons I was not too excited to cook Hungary. Thankfully the Americanized version of Hungarian food is as far from accurate as Taco Bell is to authentic Mexican cuisine. True Hungarian cuisine is very meat and potatoes based with dumplings and pasta as common accompaniments. Soup is a must for any Hungarian meal. Onions, bay leaf, and the famous Hungarian paprika are the seasonings of choice that yield delicious and flavorful meals. Are you hungry for some Hungary yet?


‘Gulyás’ means herdsman or cowboy in Hungarian and ‘sleves’ means soup. Put the two words together and you have an awesome Hungarian meal! It was a dish traditionally made by the Hungarian cattle herders who would have to pack light and eat quick meals cooked over a campfire. This delicious soup warmed the bellies of many herdsmen over the years, and now it can warm yours with this authentic recipe!

serves 3-4
1 pound steak (sirloin, bottom round, chuck), cubed
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp oil
1-2 bay leaves
1 tbsp paprika
3 cups water
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
salt and pepper, to taste
csipetke (optional)

Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions, and sauté for 5 to 6minutes until the onions are tender. Mix in the paprika. Add in the beef and cook for a couple of minutes to brown. Pour the water and bay leaves into the pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 2 hours. (Add a little water if too much evaporates.) Put the cubed potatoes into the pot, bring everything back to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for another 20 minutes. Add in the csipetke during the last five minutes of cooking if using.



Little pastas or dumplings are common accompaniments to soups and stews in Hungary. They are not a must, but they have the capability of making an amazing dish absolutely spectacular. ‘Csipetke’ drives from the Hungarian word pinch which is exactly how you make these pastas. They are super easy to create, and are great in any soup or stew.


serves 2-3
1 cup flour, plus extra for dusting
1 egg
1-2 tbsp water
dash of salt

Mix all the ingredients together and form into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to sit for at least half an hour. Flour a clean surface. Pinch of little pieces of the dough, roll them in the flour, and arrange them separately on a cutting board. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook until they rise to the top, about 4 to 5 minutes. Alternatively, throw them in your gulyás during the last five minutes of cooking and serve immediately once they rise to the top.


I really liked both the stew and pasta/ dumplings which surprised me. After a few hours simmering away, the beef was super tender and flavorful. Pasta is always good, so you can’t go wrong there. A warming stew really hits the spot on a cold day. You can trust Hungary to bring a comforting bowl on any winter's night.


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