Location: Central Europe
Population: 9.8 million
Geography: A hilly landlocked country lying in the drainage basin of the Danube River
Signature flavours: Paprika, bell pepper, tomato, potato, beef, pork, cheese
Eric wanted to make goulash, since it showcases many of the signature flavours of Hungary. He has always been curious about ratatouille, and chose lecso for its ratatouille-ness, though it is much spicier. Finally, he opted for a bread to accompany the meal. After being disappointed by his Togolese bread attempts, he was determined to succeed in the bread realm. (Spoiler alert: Success was his.) Eric took two of his recipes from a blog by a Hungarian expat living in Canada. He liked her authentic approach, but she also provides ingredient alternatives to those who may not easily find the preferred Hungarian options.
Goulash: Probably the most recognizable of Hungarian foods, goulash is a meat and potato stew traditionally flavoured with piros arany, a spicy paprika paste. Since I don’t eat beef, Eric substituted TVP. Many modern goulash recipes outside of Hungary have been Americanized into pasta casseroles, but true Hungarian goulash is not a pasta dish.
Prep and cooking time: 60 min
Lecso: A spicy tomato, onion, paprika dish. Eric added zucchini for a little greenery. Ours turned out VERY spicy, so Eric served it over basmati rice.
Prep and cooking time: 30 min
Kifli: A more substantial version of the croissant with a mild, buttery flavour. After the Togolese bread debacle (or rather, the bread that simply failed to rise), Eric used a preheated oven to encourage the dough to rise, and this worked wonders.
Prep and cooking time: 100 min (including rising time)
The Shopping List
Eric called every Eastern European grocery in the city searching for piros arany, and finally found it in Toronto’s north end at a shop called Honey Bear. Everything else was found at our local supermarket.
Eric’s perfect kifli blew me away from the second I saw them. Seriously, those things belonged in a bakery display. They were deliciously fluffy with a crisp, eggy exterior. The goulash was very good. The piros arany lends it a nice flavour that is hard to describe — basically, it tastes like condensed, slightly salty, paprika. Goulash is a dish that will be even better for leftovers tomorrow! The Lecso was so, so hot as a result of the Hungarian wax peppers that went into it. All the rice in the world couldn’t cool it down. It was really tasty, though, so we suffered through. In future, Eric says he would substitute yellow bell peppers for half the wax peppers in order to suit our wimpy palates.
Disclaimer: I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a passionate cook with a curiosity for flavours I’ve never tried. For great recipes from gifted local cooks, follow the links above.