Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Secret(s) of Hungarian Cuisine

We love to take cooking classes when we travel, it is a wonderful cultural experience, and also provides a way for us to take our trip home to family & friends. In Budapest we are at Chef Parade Cooking School, which gets excellent reviews for a reason.  We started with breakfast at the market ~ but that's a whole story of it's own.  Our guide for the day, Anita, was very knowledgeable and made us feel at home both in the market and in the kitchen. 

Our menu was a traditional 3 course meal consisting of Creamy Potato Soup with Sausage ( Krumplileves), Chicken Paprika with dumplings (Csirkepaprika's Nokedlivel), and Strudel (of course!) 

 One of the "secrets" of this tasty, hearty cuisine is fresh ingredients.  There is no substitute for the flavor that comes straight from garden-to-table.

The real flavor "punch", though comes from their famous paprika.  
We see these beautiful dried peppers everywhere. 

Once they are ground into paprika powder, you have the base for flavor-packed dishes of every sort.

We start by cooking the onions in a little oil (they use Sunflower oil there), and when they are soft, you pull them off the heat and (here's another secret) wait till the bubbles stop.  Then add the paprika powder (they use a lot of it!).  


But here's the real secret I learned about making those deep, rich Hungarian sauces ~ it's almost like a gravy.  Here's what makes that flavor come alive.  They rehydrate the dried paprika with a bit of water.  And now it's a rich sauce instead of some ingredients flavored with paprika.

Honestly, you can immediately smell the difference ~ 
the flavor just explodes!

And the other little secret was the dumpling maker we used.  I found one back home at Bed Bath & Beyond ~ they called it a spatzle maker. It's a lot of fun, and our guests get to help with this part when we do Hungarian night. 

One last tip.  They finish off nearly every sauce with some sour cream.  This adds richness and balances out the spice of the paprika very nicely, and gives it a velvety smoothness. 

So here's the finished product:  Potato & Sausage Soup (This is actually quite elegant, it should have a fancier name, in my opinion).  

Chicken Paprikash with dumplings ~ somehow those little dumplings just soak up that yummy sauce, and the chicken, which has simmered in that same sauce for an hour, just falls off the bone......


And apple strudel for dessert.  Light and flaky, easy on the waistline.   

Oh wait!  Don't forget the dill pickle stuffed with sauerkraut.  It's a requirement at every Hungarian meal!

I will post these recipes for you later in my recipe section. They are easy to replicate at home.  I would recommend authentic Hungarian paprika, though ~ 'cause there really is a difference.

 So until next cooking class, bon appetite'!


  1. I can't wait until some of your recipes are posted. This is a blog after my own heart!

    1. Going to try to get those up right away, Dawn. We have a long travel day ahead of us tomorrow (leaving for Spain!), so I'm taking them with me to do on the plane.
      We enjoyed the food in Eastern Europe very much. I refer to it as delicious peasant food. Simple, hearty, made from ingredients at hand, and very flavorful. Comfort food at it's best!
      It was so interesting to me that, what we think of as Hungarian Goulash ~ the dense, hearty stew with that thick gravy ~ is actually what you find in the Czech republic. And they call it goulash. But in Hungary, their goulash is not a thick stew, it's a soup with a clear broth, more like what we would call a beef & vegetable soup. And I loved them both!

  2. I am so excited for you to post the recipe - this sounds AMAZING! Also, please share where we can get authentic Hungarian paprika - aside from making the trek there :) I would love to make this some time!

    1. Hoping to get these recipes posted while we're on the road in the next couple of days, Kirsten. True Hungarian Paprika? I brought mine home with me ~ but I will get you an answer on where to find it online. I've ordered in several different ingredients for my international dinners that I can't always find locally. It's important that you use real Hungarian Sausage, too, for the soup. They use allot of, you guessed it, Paprika in their sausage. We found some at a specialty sausage shop in Portland, for example. (Yay Google!) We also tried substituting something else one time, with very sad results ~ not recommended. So stay tuned!

  3. Great article! Great photo of you two - traveling sure looks good on you two! The food sounds so wonderful and the photos you take really add to the flow of the story! Really am enjoying your blog!

    1. My three favorite things ~ Mr. C, traveling, and cooking! So glad you're enjoying the blog ~


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