Hungarian Veal Paprikash & Nokedli

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I awoke this morning to another cold winter’s day. I stepped out of my front door and was welcomed by a sky that was overcast, air that was crisp, and the distant chattering of teeth of all of my neighbours who were warming their cars and preparing to brave the cold for another day. I reckon for a cold day like this, hearty dinner fare is needed required to keep us all from morphing into icicles. I am keeping true to my word today that I will push the culinary envelope and cajole you into stepping outside of your cooking comfort zone. This is the perfect recipe for just that. It’s unfamiliar enough to intrigue you but not so obscure that it’s off-putting.

Paprika is the soul of this dish and the cornerstone of Hungarian cuisine. You remember paprika, don’t you? It’s that under-appreciated spice that lives somewhere in the back of your spice cabinet; you know, that one that you have to move ten other spice bottles around just to find; the spice you bought when you moved into your new place and needed another spice to complete the collection on the shiny new spice bottle rack you purchased?  And when you do find it — somewhere deep in the recesses of your pantry — we all know what you do with it: You use a modest sprinkling of it in some recipe like devilled eggs or hummus for the sake of adding a little colour. Hmph. Well, paprika may not be as popular as its friends, ‘cayenne’ and ‘turmeric’, but it is definitely worthy of praise. It is smoky and deeply fragrant and does more than just add colour to your dishes.  If you’ve paused from reading this to sniff your paprika spice bottle and what you’re smelling is a flat one-note spice — a far cry from what I’ve just described — your paprika is probably past its prime. You’d be wise to replace it with fresh paprika powder. [Food fact: paprika powder is made by grinding up the pods of a variety of pepper plants which are in the capsicum family] 

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Hungarian cuisine doesn’t quite have the ubiquitous influence that I believe — after making this dish — it deserves. This meal is a staple dish in Hungary and really comes together beautifully. The stew is thick and saucy and can be served on top of wide egg noodles (store-bought ones that you boil for a few minutes) but I opted to try my hand at making traditional Hungarian ‘nokedli’; a soft textured egg noodle/dumpling and Hungary’s answer to Germany’s ‘spaetzle’.

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Hearty 9-Bean Stew

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Certain times of year beg for certain comforts. When mother nature cruelly ambushes us with frigid, sub-zero temperatures, a warm and hearty meal will always provide a delicious refuge from the cold. Keeping that in mind, I felt a moral imperative to share with you a recipe that will leave your family or dinner guests wholly satisfied and one which will really ‘stick to your ribs’.  Hmm, I never really understood that idiom, but it is definitely an apt metaphor for this hearty and filling stew. It is as delicious as the weather is cold and is the perfect stew to enjoy along with crusty french bread, by a roaring log fire.

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The Bean Roster: Top row:  light red kidney beans, black beans, green whole peas | Middle row: green whole lentils, black eye beans, small red beans | Bottom row: red split lentils, pinto beans, small white beans.

I happened to use 9 types of beans and lentils for this stew; largely because I picked up a container of 9 varieties of mixed beans from my local Costco store – it could have just as easily been called 5-bean stew if my pantry wasn’t so handsomely stocked! If you have membership at Costco, you will be doing your family a great disservice if you don’t pick up a container of these. They are the perfect medley of beans and have a variety of uses beyond this recipe. If you don’t happen to have 9 varieties of dried beans taking up space in your pantry, you can simply use any combination of the above, so long as they total 1 cup of dried beans for the recipe. [Note: the 1 cup of dried beans will plump up to 3 cups after soaking]  I decided not to add a whole lot of meat in this recipe as I served it as a second course in a meal which had a protein-heavy third course, but the recipe can be varied to add chicken, beef or veal. On the other hand, this recipe is not entirely vegetarian either. It’s a ‘meat stew’ by virtue of the beef broth which is used, as well as the turkey bacon.

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