Hungary: Stuffed cabbage, cucumber salad, caraway soup, pancakes
My colleagues/friends and their sons generously invited me to their home to cook a delicious Hungarian meal together. It’s so much fun to cook with people who have family ties and experience with various cuisines. We made an authentic Hungarian meal complete with Hungarian phrases, cookbooks, tablecloths and wine glasses! So beautiful.
I can’t remember what the words on this apron mean, but it’s something like “come in, eat here, drink here and enjoy” (very roughly translated – I can’t find my notes from the evening!).
Eric explained that Hungarian cookbooks are general guidelines for cooking, but sort of assume a basic knowledge of how to cook elements of dishes. Meaning, the directions are not always precise, so you sort of have to improvise. I’ll try to approximate the recipes we used, as we kind of combined various recipes.
First up, stuffed cabbage, a classic Hungarian dish.
Cabbage leaves are parboiled and de-veined to make them pliable. I failed to get a picture of all of us, but here’s a nice shot of Lynne steaming the cabbage.
The version we made used “meatloaf mix:” a combo of ground pork, beef and veal. This is combined with sauteed onions, bacon, eggs, and rice.
Once the filling is mixed together, take individual cabbage leaves and fill them with the mixture, rolling them either burrito-style or tucking the ends into the roll.
In a large pot, place drained sauerkraut in the bottom then add the cabbage leaf rolls.
Then, cover with bacon strips.
Finally, add another layer of sauerkraut and, of course, more paprika. Then, add water to the pot to almost over everything, cover and cook for 1 1/2 hours, adding more water as necessary. At this point, take the bacon (toss it, it’s just for flavor) and then the cabbage rolls out and set a side. In another pan, make a roux of butter, flour and paprika and then mix this into the liquid and sauerkraut mixture and cook for about 10 minutes until thickened.
Then add the cabbage leaves back to the mixture and you’re ready to eat! This is best served with lots of sour cream (which can be added into the liquid mixture after the roux is added and it has thickened).
This is SO.GOOD. So flavorful, hearty, rich, creamy and comforting. I loved it. And, happily, it makes for great leftovers as well (which, according to a Hungarian saying may or may not also be true of relationships).
As you can see in the above picture, this was served with a cucumber salad. The cucumbers should be sliced thinly, sprinkled with salt, and allowed to rest for 10 minutes to drain the liquid. A simple dressing is made with sour cream, sugar, salt, pepper and wine vinegar. I’m not sure if this is the exact recipe Eric used, but one of the cookbooks called for the above ingredients. The salad adds a nice crisp, refreshing complement to the cabbage dish.
Also, one of the cookbooks we used suggested serving caraway soup before the stuffed cabbage. We all decided it was not really worth the effort (to make or to eat!) but it looked nice in these cups.
For dessert we had pancakes, which are basically very similar to crepes. One version of the recipe calls for eggs, milk, flour, soda water, salt, sugar and lard. The soda water makes the batter light and airy.
Eric and Lynne have this very cool crepe-making machine that I now want.
We had such a fun afternoon/evening cooking together, sharing stories, and eating together. I really enjoyed the dishes and would happily make/eat them again.
Notes for next time:
Skip the caraway soup 🙂